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Everett Reimer 

School has become the universal church of a technological society, 
incorporating and transmitting its ideology, shaping men's minds to accept 
this ideology, and conferring social status in proportion to its acceptance. 
There is no question of man’s rejecting technology. The question is only one 
of adaptation, direction and control. There may not be much time, and the 
only hope would seem to lie in education — the true education of free men 
capable of mastering technology rather than being enslaved by it, or by 
others in its name.... 

Technology can kill by poisoning the environment, by modern warfare, by 
over-population. It can enslave by chaining men to endless cycles of 
competitive consumption, by means of police states, by creating dependence 
on modes of production, which are not viable in the long run. There are no 
certain roads of escape from these dangers. There can be no road of escape 
at all, however, if men remain enthralled in a monolithic secular orthodoxy. 
Our major threat today is a worldwide monopoly in the domination of men's 

School is Dead 

An Essay on Alternatives in Education 
Everett Reimer 

Everett Reimer has done too many things to mention in full: he has sold 
maps, played professional football, printed greeting cards and worked in a 
tire factory. During the war he became a civil servant. After that he worked 
for the Atomic Energy Commission, for the Survey Research Center at the 
University of Michigan, and for the Washington Research Center of the 
Maxwell School, University of Syracuse. 

Later he became Secretary of the Puerto Rican Committee of Human 
Resources, and worked for the Alliance for Progress. He is now with Ivan 
Illich, at the Center for Intercultural Documentation (CIDOC), and is 
Director of the CIDOC seminar on Alternatives in Education. 


Note for English Readers 

1 The Case Against Schools 

2 What Schools Do 

3 What Schools Are 

4 How Schools Work 

5 Where Schools Came From 

6 Institutional Props for Privilege 

7 Are Democratic Institutions Possible? 

8 Education for Freedom 

9 What People Need to Know 

10 Networks of Things 

1 1 Networks of People 

12 Financing Education 

1 3 The Revolutionary Role of Education 

14 Strategy for a Peaceful Revolution 

15 What Each of Us Can Do 


My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of 
school. - Margaret Mead 

This book is the result of a conversation with Ivan Illich, which has 
continued for fifteen years. We have talked of many things but increasingly 
about education and school and, eventually, about alternatives to Schools. 

Illich and I met in Puerto Rico, where I had come in 1954, as secretary of 
the committee on Human Resources of the Commonwealth Government, 
charged with assessing the manpower needs of the island and recommending 
an educational programme to meet them. Puerto Rico was then in the course 
of rapid industrialization and my calculations showed that dropout rates 
would have to decline throughout the school system if the estimated 
manpower needs of the economy were to be met. Everything was done to 
reduce these rates and they actually declined for a while, but it soon became 
apparent that the decline was at the expense of grade standards and, 
therefore, was meaningless. 

Illich came to Puerto Rico in 1956, at the request of the Late Cardinal 
Spellman, to organize a training programme for New York priests from 
parishes overrun by Puerto Rican migrants. We soon found common 
interests and many parallels in the problems of church and school. In 1960 
Illich left Puerto Rico for Mexico and shortly after I also left for Washington 
to join the Alliance for Progress. We began to study the problems of Latin 
American education at about the same time and these turned out to be 
similar to the problems of Puerto Rico but on a vastly larger scale. It was 
soon clear to both of us that the countries of Latin America could not, for 
many years, afford schools for all of their children. At the same time 
education seemed to be the basic need of these countries, not only to us but 
to their political parties and leaders as well. In 1968 we began a part-time 
formal study of this dilemma and of possible ways out of it. 

Our analysis of school was soon extended to other institutions and to the 
structure of the society schools serve. At first we felt that school was a 
lagging institution in an increasingly efficient technological society. We 
later came to see schools as providing indispensable support for a 
technological society which is itself not viable. The simplest way to expose 

the contradictions of this society is to point out that it promises unlimited 
progress to unlimited numbers of people. The absurdity of this claim is 
conceded by the recognition of the need for birth control, but birth control 
itself turns out to depend on progress. Even at present rates of growth, by the 
time children can be kept in school long enough for schools to have a 
significant impact on birth rates, the population of the world will have 
increased threefold. And this is using conservative projections. If modern 
medical techniques were made generally available, the rate of population 
increase would double or triple! We retain breathing space only by letting 
poor babies die at ten times the rate of privileged babies. 

During the past decade the actual rate at which the benefits of modern 
institutions have been extended to the underprivileged peoples of the world 
is scarcely greater than the rate of population growth. On a per capita basis, 
individuals have benefited marginally, if at all. 

Part of the problem lies in the inefficiency of modern institutions, 
including schools. The greater part lies in the promise of unlimited progress. 
As the world is now organized, the standard of living in India can rise only if 
the standard of living in the United States also rises. Yet a 3 per cent rise in 
the United States average income is twice the total income of the average 
Indian. Raising world consumption standards to US levels would multiply 
the combustion of fossil fuels by fifty times, the use of iron a hundred times, 
the use of other metals over two hundred times. By the time these levels 
were reached consumption levels in the United States would again have 
tripled and the population of the world would also have tripled. Such 
projections lead to results as absurd as the premises from which they start. 
There can be no open-ended progress. Yet this is what schools and other 
modern institutions promise. This is the promise of science and technology, 
unrestrained by reason. This is the promise which has bred schools and other 
modern institutions and which they in turn propagate. Schools are an 
essential element of a world in which technology is king. 

The contradictions of such a world are becoming apparent. They are best 
illustrated in the school and best corrected by freeing education from the 
school so that people may learn the truth about the society in which they 

In the course of the above analysis, an interpretation of human history has 
developed which, although sketchy and incomplete, must be shared with the 

reader. When techniques, institutions and ideologies were primitive, man 
lived in relative equality and freedom, because there were no adequate 
means of domination. As techniques, institutions and ideologies developed, 
they were used to establish and maintain relations of domination and 
privilege. From that time on, the societies which succeeded in dominating 
others, and thus world history, were also characterized by inter-class and 
inter-personal domination, in tension with efforts to establish equality. As 
techniques increased in efficiency and as ideologies gained in insight, they 
repeatedly threatened to upset the privilege structure of society. Institutions 
were used to counter these threats by controlling the use of the techniques 
and by perverting the ideologies. When revolutionary breakthroughs 
occurred, institutions were re-established on a broader base, extending 
privilege to more people, but always at the same time maintaining the 
structure of privilege. This view does not necessarily lead to a Jeffersonian 
suspicion of institutions as such. Despite the historical record, the possibility 
of democratic institutions remains — if men determine to use institutions for 
democratic purposes. 

I would like to be able to say that the previous paragraph contains the last 
over-simplification in this book. Regrettably I cannot. I have tried to qualify 
my assertions, to provide evidence for them, to give supporting references 
and to justify my value judgments, but I do not expect to satisfy the norms of 
academic scholarship. To do that I would have to write not this book now 
but a completely different book twenty years from now. I chose to write this 
book now because I would like to live to see it become a self-fulfilling 
prophecy. Twenty years from now I might not be alive. 

My view of history does not result in an unbiased appraisal of schools nor 
of the society to which schools belong, but rather in an indictment of both. 
Schools are admittedly treated in stereotype rather than in terms of concrete 
human behavior. Schools are simply too big to treat concretely. Alternatives 
to school, as opposed to mere reform, require going beyond the experience 
of individuals to an analysis of the essential characteristics of schools. 
Nevertheless, in an abstract treatment people will not quite recognize 
themselves, as students, teachers, parents, or in other concrete roles related 
to schools. A few may feel themselves cast as the villains in a conspiracy of 
injustice. But this would be a misreading of the book. 

There are unjust men in the world and it is an unjust world, but it is not the 
unjust men, primarily, who make it so. It is an unjust world largely because 

it is composed of faulty institutions. These institutions, in turn, are merely 
the collective habits of individuals, but individuals can have bad habits 
without being bad people. In general, people are unconscious of their habits, 
particularly their institutional habits. The positive thesis of this book is that 
people can become aware of their bad institutional habits and can change 
them. The world would then be a better world, made up of still imperfect 
people. There are, of course, some people who know that they have bad 
habits but do not want to change them. There are others who are afraid to 
examine their habits for fear that their consciences would then be troubled. 
This is the worst that can be said of most people. It is enough, however, to 
explain how the world can be worse than the people who live in it. 

The realities of school are both better and worse than they are here 
described. Others have made more of an attempt at concrete portrayal and 
their work is an indispensable supplement to the present analysis. Tom 
Brown, Charlie Brown, Miss Peach and the children and teachers from 
George Dennison's and Jonathan Kozol's accounts are a few examples of 
attempts to show the reality of school. A model for general description and 
analysis of institutional behavior is to be found in Floyd Allport's book by 
that name, I regret that recognition of such a great teacher — encountered 
outside of school — should be accompanied by evidence of such poor 

This book owes far more debts than I can remember, let alone 
acknowledge. Several, however, must be singled out. Except for the 
insistence of Ralph Bohrson it might never have been written. Except for the 
help of the Ford Foundation travel and study grant which he administered, 
the time spent writing it might have been spent on other work. Cooperation 
from CIDOC, which has permitted me to work intensively with Illich, to 
publish earlier drafts and to discuss them with students and associates, has 
been even more vital. Many educators, economists, administrators and 
political leaders from Latin America, the United States and Europe have by 
this time participated in the analysis which Illich and I have conducted. Most 
of them are referred to in the text and in the appended notes. I want also to 
recognize the invaluable editorial assistance of Jordan Bishop, John JJolt, 
Monica Raymond, Joan Remple, Dennis Sullivan and of many students at 
CIDOC with whom I have discussed earlier drafts. Not least is the debt I 
owe my wife and sons and daughters for years of critical conversation about 
education and the rest of lie. None of my collaborators are directly 
responsible for anything in the book. Even Illich may disagree with parts of 

it. By the time it is published it is quite likely that I will too. (This sentence 
concluded the introduction to the first printed draft published by CIDOC, 
Cuernavaca, Mexico, in 1970. Four chapters of that draft have been 
jettisoned and eight new ones have been added. The sentence stands.) 

Note for English Readers 

In America the word 'school' is still used in what my English editors tell 
me is the medieval sense - i.e. to include any educational institution at any 
level, including universities. I use it in this sense. 

We Americans are also backward in other ways. We still have to learn for 
example that the world is not our oyster. We still believe that revolutions are 
made primarily with guns. We still depend on a mixture of science and 
money to solve our serious problems. While these anachronisms are not 
unknown among the English-speaking peoples outside America, they are, 
hopefully, somewhat less common and perhaps less virulent. I take this to 
reflect better experience rather than better genes. This experience — that 
there is a life after empire which one need not die to enjoy, this recent 
history of the British Empire — is the most substantial evidence available to 
support the notion of peaceful revolutionary change. Since peaceful 
revolution is my message, I have hopes that the barrier of terminology 
between me and my non-American English readers will be offset by the 
advantage of this superior history. 

'If sharks were people,' his landlady's little daughter asked Mr. K, 'would 
they be nicer to the little fish?' 'Of course,' he said, ‘if sharks were people, 
they would have strong boxes built in the sea for little fish. There they would 
put in all sorts of food, plants and little animals, too. They would see to it 
that the boxes always had fresh water, and they would take absolutely every 
sort of sanitary measure. When, for example, a little fish would injure his 
fin, it would be immediately bandaged so that he would not die on the sharks 
before his time had come. In order that the little fish would never be sad, 
there would be big water parties from time to time; for happy fish taste 
better than sad ones. Of course, there would be schools in the big boxes as 
well. There the little fish would learn how to swim into the mouths of the 
sharks. They would need, for example, geography so that they could find the 
sharks, lazing around somewhere. The main subject would naturally be the 
moral education of the little fish. They would be taught that the grandest, 

most beautiful thing is for a little fish to offer himself happily, and that they 
must all believe in the sharks, above all when they say that they will provide 
for a beautiful future. One would let the little fish know that this future is 
only assured when they learn obedience. They must shy away from all 
lowly, materialistic and Marxist inclinations, and inform the sharks 
immediately if any one of them betrayed such tendencies. ... If sharks were 
people, there would of course be art as well. There would be beautiful 
pictures of sharks' teeth, all in magnificent colors, of their mouths and 
throats as pure playgrounds where one can tumble and play. The theatres on 
the bottom of the sea would offer plays showing heroic little fish swimming 
enthusiastically down the throats of the sharks, and the music would be so 
beautiful that its sounds would lead the little fish dreamily to the chapels 
and, filled with the most pleasant thoughts, they would stream down the 
sharks' throats. There would certainly be religion. 

... It would teach that true life really begins in the sharks' bellies. And if 
sharks were people, the little fish would stop being, as they are now, equals. 
Some would be given offices and be put over the others. Those a little bigger 
would even be allowed to eat the smaller ones. That would only be 
delightful for the sharks, for then they would more often have bigger crumbs 
to gobble up. And the most important of the little fish, those with offices, 
would look to the ordering of the little fish. And they would become 
teachers, officers, box-building engineers, etc. In short, there could only be 
culture in the sea if the sharks were people.' 

Bertolt Brecht: Kalendergeschichten 


Most of the children of the world are not in school. Most of those who 
enter drop out after a very few years. Most of those who succeed in school 
still become dropouts at a higher level. UNESCO data show that only in a 
small minority of nations do even half the children complete the first six 
grades.' No child, however, fails to learn from school. Those who never get 
in learn that the good things of life are not for them. Those who drop out 
early learn that they do not deserve the good things of life. The later 
dropouts learn that the system can be beaten, but not by them. All of them 
learn that school is the path to secular salvation, and resolve that their 
children shall climb higher on the ladder than they did.' 

For most members of the present generation, this hope that their children 
will benefit more from school than they, is doomed to disappointment. 
Schools are too expensive for this hope to be realized. For many, it may 
appear to be realized but the appearance will be a delusion, fostered by 
inflationary debasement of the academic currency. More college and high- 
school degrees will be granted but they will mean less, both in terms of 
amount and kind of learning and in terms of job qualification and real 

In all countries, school costs are rising faster than enrolments and faster 
than national income. While the school's share of national income can afford 
to grow slowly as this income increases, it cannot continue to grow at 
present rates. In Puerto Rico, for example, the national income was ten times 
greater in 1965 than in 1940. School enrolment more than doubled during 
this period while school costs multiplied twenty-five times. Yet, even in 
1965, less than half of all Puerto Rican students finished nine years of school 
and the proportion who reached the higher grades without learning to read 
was higher than it was twenty-five years earlier. Puerto Rico is atypical in its 
absolute rates of growth, but not in the vital relationships among them. 
Monographs on the cost of schooling in African and Asian countries, 
sponsored by the International Institute for Educational Planning, paint a 
similar picture, as do studies in Britain and most of the countries of Western 
Europe. Recent studies in the United States suggest that it would cost eighty 
billion additional dollars to meet educators' estimates of what is needed to 
provide adequate schooling.' Even the settlement of the war in Indochina 
would provide only a small fraction of this amount. 

The conclusion is inescapable: no country in the world can afford the 
education its people want in the form of schools. Except for a few rich 
nations, and some not yet exposed to the development virus, no country in 
the world can afford the schools its people are now demanding from their 
political leaders. Continued attempts to supply the demand for college study 
in the United States will condemn the black and rural minorities to an 
indefinite wait for an adequate education. In India, Nigeria and Brazil the 
majority must, for generations, be denied all but marginal educational 
resources if a tiny minority is to enjoy the luxury of schooling, which would 
still be regarded as pitifully inadequate by United States standards. 
Development economists argue that peasants in India, sharecroppers in 
Alabama and dishwashers from Harlem do not need more education until the 
world is ready to absorb them into better jobs, and that these better jobs can 

be created only by others who must, therefore, be given educational 
priority." But this argument ignores many of the economic, demographic and 
political facts of life. Economic growth, where it is occurring, principally 
bolsters the level of living of the already better off, fattens military and 
security-police budgets, and supports the markets of more developed 
nations. Population is growing so much faster than the rate at which real 
educational opportunities can be expanded by means of schools that 
deferring the education of the masses merely leaves a more difficult task for 
the future. On the other hand, people will not voluntarily curtail birth rates 
until they have a minimum not only of education but also of the social 
mobility which education implies.' If there were a monopoly of power in the 
world, population growth might be curtailed arbitrarily. In the world as it is, 
to ignore popular demands for education is not only morally indefensible, it 
is politically impossible, except by military governments. For most people, 
forcing others not to have children would be a completely unacceptable 

While children who never go to school are most deprived, economically 
and politically, they probably suffer the least psychological pain. Andean 
Indians, tribal Africans and Asian peasants belong to communities which 
have no schools or which have them only for the children of the elite. Their 
parents and grandparents have never known schools as places they expected 
their children to attend. They do know, however, what schools imply. Going 
to school means leaving the traditional life, moving to a different place, 
laying aside physical burdens for the work of the tongue and the mind, 
exchanging traditional food, clothing and customs for those of the larger 
town or distant city. Parents often prefer to keep the child in the traditional 
community, bearing the familiar burdens, confined to the enjoyments, which 
primitive means can provide. They know, however, that this implies 
continuing domination by others, continuing dependence in times of hunger, 
war and sickness, increasing distance from those who enjoy wealth, power 
and respect. When the choice becomes a real one, most unschooled parents 
all over the world decide to send their children to school. 

These first attenders have a harder time than their older brothers and 
sisters, for whom the school came too late. They do not last long in school. 

In 1960, half the children who entered school in Latin America never started 
the second grade, and half the second graders never started the third. Three- 
fourths dropped out before they learned to read. They did learn, however, 
how unsuited they were to school, how poor their clothing was, how bad 

their manners, how stupid they were in comparison with those who went on 
to higher grades. This helped them accept the greater privilege and power of 
the deserving minority and their own relative poverty and political 
impotence. Yet they were not as ready as their older brothers and sisters to 
accept the limitations of their traditional lot. A little schooling can induce a 
lot of dissatisfaction. The more schooling a dropout has, the more it hurts 
him to drop out. The child who never learns to read can still accept his 
inferiority as a fact of life. The child who goes on to higher grades may learn 
that he is really no different from the sons of the mayor, the merchant or the 
school teacher, except that they have the money or the influence needed to 
go on to secondary school or college, while he must stay behind for lack of 
it. For him, it is much harder to accept their getting the better jobs, enjoying 
the higher offices, winning the more beautiful girls, all because they were 
able to stay in school longer than he. 

A winner's world? If this were all, schools might still be defended; but the 
winners of the school game are a strange lot. The Ottomans used to geld 
their candidates for managerial posts. Schools make physical emasculation 
unnecessary by doing the job more effectively at the libidinal level. This is, 
of course, a simplistic metaphor. While there is evidence that girls do better 
in school than boys and that boys do less well the more masculine they are, 
this undoubtedly results more from social than from physical factors. The 
metaphor understates rather than overstates the facts. School domesticates — 
socially emasculates — both girls and boys by a process much more 
pervasive than mere selection by sex. School requires conformity for 
survival and thus shapes its students to conform to the norms for survival." If 
learning the official curriculum of the school were the principal criterion, 
this might still not be so bad, although it would substitute the learning of 
what Whitehead and other philosophers of education have called dead 
knowledge for true learning. The actual survival criteria are much worse. In 
addition to the wealth or influence of parents, they include the ability to beat 
the game, which, according to John Flolt and other perceptive teachers, is 
mainly what successful students learn in school. Or, as H. L. Mencken put it, 
the main thing children learn in school is how to lie. This can hardly be 
avoided when survival in school ever more determines the degree of 
privilege and power which the student will enjoy as an adult. 

To say that schools teach conformity and also teach students to beat the 
game is not contradictory. Beating the game is one form of conformity. 
Individual teachers may be concerned with what children learn, but school 

systems record only the marks they get. Most students learn to follow the 
rules, which schools can enforce and to break those they cannot. But also, 
different Students learn in varying degrees to conform, to ignore the rules 
and to take advantage of them. Those who ignore them in the extreme 
become dropouts, and learn mainly that they do not belong in school or in 
the society it represents. Those who conform to the rules become the 
dependable producers and consumers of the technological society. Those 
who learn to beat the School game become the exploiters of this society. 
Those on whom the discipline of the school falls lightly, who easily per- 
form its assignments and have little need to violate its rules, are least 
touched by school. They are, or become, the social aristocrats and the rebels. 
This, at any rate, is what happened before schools began to break down. 

Now all kinds of students join in the rush for the door, while schools engage 
in a similar scramble to recapture their dropouts by any means. 

As late as the turn of the century schools were still a minor institution and 
all who were not suited for them had other educational options. Fifty years 
ago, no country in the world had 10 per cent of its teenage population in 
school. Schools have grown so fast partly because they happened to be doing 
what was important to a technological era when this era began. Their 
monopoly of education has been achieved as one aspect of the monopoly of 
technology. The main reason we need alternatives to schools is because they 
close the door to humanity's escape from this monopoly. They ensure that 
those who inherit influence in a world dominated by technology will be 
those who profit by this domination and, even worse, those who have been 
rendered incapable of questioning it. Not only the leaders but also their 
followers are shaped by the school game to play the game of competitive 
consumption - first to meet and then to surpass the standards of others. 
Whether the rules are fair or the game worth playing is beside the point. 

School has become the universal church of a technological society, 
incorporating and transmitting its ideology, shaping men's minds to accept 
this ideology, and conferring social status in proportion to its acceptance. 
There is no question of man's rejecting technology. The question is only one 
of adaptation, direction and control. There may not be much time, and the 
only hope would seem to lie in education - the true education of free men 
capable of mastering technology rather than being enslaved by it, or by 
others in its name. 

There are many roads to enslavement, only a few to mastery and freedom. 
Technology can kill by poisoning the environment, by modem warfare, by 
over-population. It can enslave by chaining men to endless cycles of 
competitive consumption, by means of police states, by creating dependence 
on modes of production, which are not viable in the long run. There are no 
certain roads of escape from these dangers. There can be no mode of escape 
at all, however, if men remain enthralled in a monolithic secular orthodoxy. 
The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States was a landmark 
in history.' There shall be no establishment of religion.' Only the terms and 
the scope of the problem have changed. Our major threat today is a 
worldwide monopoly in the domination of men's minds. 

I learned something in school today. 

I signed up for folk guitar, computer programming, stained glass art, 
shoemaking and a natural foods workshop. 

I got Spelling, History, Arithmetic and two study periods. So what did you 

I learned that what you sign up for and what you get are two different things. 
Charles Schulz: Peanuts 


Schools are supposed to educate. This is their ideology, their public 
purpose. They have gone unchallenged, until recently, partly because 
education is itself a term which means such different things to different 
people. Different schools do different things, of course, but increasingly, 
schools in all nations, of all kinds, at all levels, combine four distinct social 
functions: custodial care, social-role selection, indoctrination, and education 
as usually defined in terms of the development of skills and knowledge. It is 
the combination of these functions, which makes schooling so expensive. It 
is conflict among these functions, which makes schools educationally 
inefficient. It is also the combination of these functions, which tends to make 
school a total institution, which has made it an international institution, and 
which makes it such an effective instrument of social control. 

Custodial care is now so universally provided by schools that it is hard to 
remember earlier arrangements. Children must, of course, be cared for — if 
they really are children, that is, and not just young members of the 
community taking part in its normal productive and social affairs. Most 
youngsters still get along without special care, all over the world, in the 
tribal, peasant and urban dwellings of the poor. 

Child care costs money, and although schools provide it relatively cheaply, 
this is where most of the school budget goes. Time studies conducted in 
Puerto Rico by Anthony Lauria show that less than 20 per cent of a teacher's 
time is available for instructional activities. The rest is spent on behavior 
control and administrative routine. Lauria’s data support a statement John 
Gardner once made, long before he was Secretary of Health, Education and 
Welfare in the federal government of the United States. He said that 
everything a high-school graduate is taught in twelve years of schooling 
could easily be learned in two years and with a little effort in one. Since 
childcare is the most tangible service schools provide, and since parents are 
naturally concerned about the quality of such care, this function has a 
priority claim on school resources. Other functions must compete for what is 
left after prevailing local standards of safety, comfort end convenience have 
been met. 

As children get older, childcare, paradoxically, becomes both more 
extensive and more expensive. Actual hours spent in school increase, 
buildings are more luxurious, the ratio of paid adults to students increases, 
and the salaries of these adults also increase. Where there are no schools, 
children contribute more to the community and require less support, as they 
grow older. High schools, however, take more of the students' time than 
primary schools, and cost more too, while most colleges and universities 
occupy the full time of the student, at an ever increasing hourly cost, as 
students progress up the academic ladder. The costs of higher education, 
admittedly, cover more than mere custodial care, but at upper as well as 
lower levels, the time students spend in school is an important cost factor. 
Space is also costly; the commodious college campus, insulated from the 
non-academic environment, is much more expensive than the neighborhood 

Money, however, is the least of the costs of providing custodial care in 
schools. The really important consequence of packaging custody with the 
other functions of the school is the extension of childhood from age twelve 

to twenty-five, and from the sons and daughters of the rich to the youth of 
the whole society. This, in turn, is only one aspect of the division of modern 
life into school, work and retirement. 

So long as children remain full-time students they remain children — 
economically, politically, even legally. While no formal legal sanctions are 
available against students, as such, they can always be deprived of their 
rights to schooling, and thus to preferred employment and social status. The 
school schedule remains, also, one of the major supports for age restrictions 
on the right to vote, to work, to contract and to enjoy other constitutional 
privileges and protections. The school itself, as custodian of ever larger 
numbers of people, for increasing proportions of their life span, for an ever 
growing number of hours and interests, is well on the way to joining armies, 
prisons and insane asylums as one of society's total institutions. Strictly 
speaking, total institutions are those which totally control the lives of their 
inmates, and even armies, prisons and asylums do this completely only for 
certain inmates. Only vacation-less boarding schools could strictly be called 
total institutions, but perhaps the strict definition gives too much attention to 
the body and too little to the mind and spirit. Schools pervade the lives and 
personalities of their students in powerful and insidious ways and have 
become the dominant institution in the lives of modern men during their 
most formative years. 

Studies of prisons and asylums indicate how overwhelmingly such 
institutions produce the very behavior they are designed to correct. In one 
experiment, almost all the members of a group of persons diagnosed as 
hopelessly insane, asylum inmates for over twenty years, were discharged as 
cured within a few months of being placed in a ' normal environment. In 
another experiment, a group of persons diagnosed as dangerously insane 
were allowed to institute self-government among themselves and managed 
without incident. A similar cute for student unrest would be to stop making 
children out of people old enough to have children, support them and fight 
for them. This would, of course, require other social changes in addition to 
the divorce of custodial care from education at the higher levels of 
schooling, but they are equally necessary changes if society is to survive. 

A second function of schools, more directly in conflict with their 
educational aims than custodial cam, is the sorting of the young into the 
social slots they will occupy in adult life. Some of this sorting occurs at the 
high-school and college level, when students begin to opt for this or that 

profession or trade and enter special curricula of one to a dozen years in 
length for vocational preparation. The results of even this accepted aspect of 
job selection in school are wasteful and often disastrous. Part of the waste is 
in the high proportion of dropouts, not only from professional and trade 
schools but from the professions and trades themselves, frequently after long 
and expensive investments have been made. Many people find that medicine 
or teaching is not for them - something they could have found out much 
sooner and much cheaper if they had begun as orderlies, nurses or teachers' 
aides. Even those who stay in the field of their choice do not escape 
extensive waste of time and money. According to the folklore of many 
occupations, the first several years of work are spent forgetting what was 
learned about the vocation in school. Counseling and many other sincere and 
systematic efforts are made to minimize this kind of waste but it is doubtful 
that, even at great additional cost, they can do more than slow its 
acceleration. The ever-greater separation of school from the rest of life 
widens a gap, which no amount of effort can bridge. 

The major part of job selection is not a matter of personal choice at all, but 
a matter of survival in the school system. Age at dropout determines whether 
boys and girls will be paid for their bodies, hands or brains and also, of 
course, how much they will be paid. This in turn will largely determine 
where they can live, with whom they can associate, and the rest of their style 
of life. Within this century, any profession could still be entered at the 
bottom. Today this is difficult even in countries, which provide schools for 
only a tiny minority. In the United States, it is now hard to become a 
carpenter without having graduated from high school. In New York City 
even a garbage collector needs a diploma. 

While economic status is largely a function of the level at which a student 
drops out, power in the society depends more upon the sorting that occurs 
when high-school graduates enter college. Admission to Harvard College 
practically guarantees access to the groups, which will control the major 
hierarchies of the United States. State and local as well as national 
hierarchies are the products of the college lottery. Even international 
agencies are ruled by the graduates of a dozen world-famous universities. 

Power and wealth are not everything, of course, but almost everything else 
depends upon them in many parts of the world. Especially where the school 
system is dominant, respect, reputation, health, even affection of many 

kinds, can either be commanded or purchased — if they are not tendered as 
gifts to those who could order or buy them. 

The school system has thus amazingly become, in less than a century, the 
major mechanism for distributing values of all kinds among all the peoples 
of the world, largely replacing the family, the church and the institution of 
private property in this capacity. In capitalist countries it might be more 
accurate to say that schools confirm rather than replace the value- 
distribution functions of these older institutions. Family, religion and 
property have such an important influence on access to and success in school 
that schooling alters only slowly and marginally the value distributions of an 
earlier day. Jefferson put it well when he said, in arguing for public schools, 
that by this means we shall each year rake a score of geniuses from the ashes 
of the masses. The result of such a process, as the English aristocracy 
learned long before Jefferson, is to keep the elite alive while depriving the 
masses of their potential leaders. 

Communist countries have, of course, abolished private property, have 
attempted to abolish organized religion and have vied to weaken the role of 
the family. There are few data, unfortunately, to show how much 
redistribution of values has taken place in these countries but the general 
impression is that it is much less than had been expected. One of the 
strongest supports for this impression comes from the great similarity of 
school systems in capitalist and communist countries. They perform the 
same functions and share the same defining characteristics. There is not the 
slightest doubt that communist schools sort their students into jobs, 
vocational levels, pay differentials, power and privilege strata in just the 
same way as capitalist schools. The only question is whether the prizes go to 
the sons and daughters of the previously privileged in quite the same degree. 

Leaders in communist China are greatly preoccupied with this question. In 
1966, schools throughout China were closed for over a year in an attempt to 
make education more egalitarian and down to earth. Mao's own policy 
statements make clear his desire to rid education of elite control and to make 
it universally available to the masses. The difficulties encountered in this 
effort are obviously formidable, however, even for Mao, and it appears that 
most schools reopened in 1967 with significant but not really fundamental 
changes in the nature of the system. How much of this compromise was due 
to ideological and how much to practical considerations is hard to say. The 
pressures of building a nation in competition with such super-powers as 

Russia and the United States must be tremendous, and schools appear to be 
an almost indispensable tool for nation building. On the other hand, the 
educational controversy in China has never abandoned the rhetoric of 
schools. Despite all the emphasis on universal access, practicality and 
revolutionary objectives, the debate always refers to the reform of the school 
system rather than to its replacement. 

It should now be clear why schools have grown so fast. To the masses, and 
their leaders, they have held out unprecedented hope of social justice. To the 
elite they have been an unparalleled instrument, appearing to give what they 
do not, while convincing all that they get what they deserve. Only the great 
religions provide an analogy, with their promise of universal brotherhood 
always betrayed. 

Betrayal of the hopes of schooling is implicit in the selection function 
which schools perform. Selection implies losers as well as winners and, 
increasingly, selection is for life. Furthermore, school is a handicap race in 
which the slower must cover a greater distance bearing the growing burden 
of repeated failure, while the quicker are continually spurred by success. 
Nevertheless, the finish line is the same for all and the first to get there win 
the prizes. All attempts to disguise the reality of this situation fail. Parents 
know the truth, while teachers and administrators are often compelled to 
admit it. Euphemisms about the transcendent importance of learning and 
about doing your best are, thus, self-defeating. It is no wonder, under these 
circumstances, that some children drop out while others work to win rather 
than to learn. 

Consistently punishing half of the children who are trying to learn what 
society is trying to teach them is not the worst aspect of combining social- 
role selection with education. Such punishment is an unavoidable result of 
the relative failure, which half the school population must experience while 
climbing the school ladder in competition with their more successful peers. 
Such punishment can scarcely help but condition this half of the school 
population to resist all future efforts to induce them to learn whatever is 
taught in school. But this is only the lesser evil. The greater is that school 
necessarily sorts its students into a caste-like hierarchy of privilege. There 
may be nothing wrong with hierarchy nor with privilege, nor even with 
hierarchies of privilege, so long as these are plural and relatively 
independent of each other. There is everything wrong with a dominant 
hierarchy of privilege to which all others must conform. Birth into a caste, 

inheritance of wealth and the propagation of a governing party are all means 
by which such a dominant hierarchy can be maintained. In the modern 
technological world, however, all of these means either depend upon or are 
replaced by the school. No single system of education can have any other 
result nor can a dominant hierarchy of privilege be maintained in a 
technological world by any means except a unified system of education. 

If schools continue for a few more generations to be the major means of 
social-role selection, the result will be a meritocracy, in which merit is 
defined by the selection process that occurs in schools. Michael Young 
describes this outcome in his Rise of the Meritocracy. His picture of English 
society, fifty years from now, is a projection of Galbraith's New Industrial 
State with the technocrats in the saddle.' He describes a school system which 
becomes a super-streaming system, constantly shuffling its students into the 
channels where their past performance suggests that they belong. The slow 
students are not kidded in this system; they quickly learn where they stand 
and where they are going, but they are taught to like it. The quick also know 
where they are going and like it so well they end up trying to reestablish an 
hereditary aristocracy based on merit. This reverse English twist leads to a 
happy ending which takes humanity off the hook, but not until the author has 
made his — and repeated Dante's — point. Any system in which men get just 
what they deserve is Hell. 

Schools define merit in accordance with the structure of the society served 
by schools. This structure is characterized by the competitive consumption 
of technological products defined by institutions. Institutions define products 
in a way, which is consistent with the maintenance of a dominant hierarchy 
of privilege and, as far as possible, with the opportunity for members of the 
currently privileged class to retain their status in the new 'meritocracy'. 

What schools define as merit is principally the advantage of having literate 
parents, books in the home, the opportunity to travel, etc. Merit is a smoke 
screen for the perpetuation of privilege. The ability of IQ tests to predict 
school performance does not rebut this statement. As Arthur Jensen, the 
most recent defender of IQ, points out, the intelligence measured by tests is 
operationally defined as the ability to succeed in school." The significance of 
Michael Young's book is to show that merit is an ideological as well as an 
actual smoke screen; that we would be even worse off if 'true merit' were to 
replace more primitive means of perpetuating privilege. 

The third function of schooling is indoctrination. Indoctrination is a bad 
word. Bad schools, we say, indoctrinate. Good ones teach basic values. All 
schools, however, teach the value of childhood, the value of competing for 
the life prizes offered in school and the value of being taught — not learning 
for one's self — what is good and what is true. In fact, all schools 
indoctrinate in ways more effective than those which are generally 
recognized. By the time they go to school, children have learned how to use 
their bodies, how to use language and how to control their emotions. They 
have learned to depend upon themselves and have been rewarded for 
initiative in learning. In school these values are reversed. The what, when, 
where and how of learning are decided by others, and children learn that it is 
good to depend upon others for their learning. They learn that what is worth- 
while is what is taught and, conversely, that if something is important 
someone must teach it to them. 

Children learn in school not only the values of the school but to accept 
these values and, thus, to get along in the system, they learn the value of 
conformity and, while this learning is not confined to school, it is 
concentrated there. School is the first highly institutionalized environment 
most children encounter. For orphans and children who are sick or 
handicapped this is not the case, and the retarding effects of 
institutionalizing infants is impressively documented." Orphans learn so well 
not to interfere with institutional requirements that they seldom become 
capable of making a useful contribution to society. The argument for 
schools, of course, is that they strike the balance between conformity and 
initiative, which the institutional roles of adult life will require. 

Other values are implicit in those aspects of curriculum, which are alike in 
schools all over the world. These include the priorities given to dominant 
languages, both natural and technical. Examples of the first are the priority 
given to Spanish over Indian tongues in Latin America, and to Russian over 
provincial languages in the Soviet Union. Examples of the second are the 
priorities given mathematics over music, and physics over poetry. There are 
obviously good reasons for these priorities, but they are reasons derived 
from the world as it is, ignoring the claims of both the world of the past and 
the desirable world of the future. More than this, these decisions reflect not 
even all of the major aspects of today's world, but preponderantly the 
balance of political and economic power. Less people speak English than 
Chinese and far fewer speak physics than poetry. English and physics are 
simply more powerful — at the moment. 

Another value implicit in school is that of hierarchy. Schools both reflect 
dominant values and maintain a stratified world. They make it seem natural 
and inevitable that hierarchies are inherently correlated and cannot be 
independent of each other. Schools do not have to teach this doctrine. It is 
learned by studying an integrated curriculum arranged in graded layers. 

Finally, after performing childcare, social screening and value-teaching 
functions, schools also teach cognitive skills and both transmit and — at 
graduate levels — create knowledge. The first three functions are performed 
necessarily; because of the way schools are organized. Cognitive learning, 
although it is declared the principal purpose of schools, occurs only in so far 
as resources remain after the in-built functions are performed. In urban 
ghetto schools of the United States and in rural Brazilian schools, attempting 
to operate on a budget of fifty dollars per year per child, very little cognitive 
learning occurs. Of course exceptional teachers can teach and exceptional 
students can learn within the confiner of the school. As school systems 
expand, claiming an increasing proportion of all educational resources, 
absorbing more students and teachers and more of the time of each, some 
true educational experiences are bound to occur in schools. They occur, 
however, despite and not because of school. 

Schools rest much of their case on their claim to teach skills, especially 
language and mathematical skills. The most commonly heard defense of 
schools is 'Where else would children learn to read?' Literacy has, in fact, 
always run well ahead of schooling. According to census data, there are 
always more literate members of a society than persons who have gone to 
school. Furthermore, where schooling is universal, there are always children 
attending school who do not learn to read. In general, the children of literate 
parents learn to read even if they do not attend school, while the children of 
illiterate parents frequently fail to learn even in school." 

In universally schooled societies, of course, most children learn to read in 
school. Considering when they learn to read and when they begin to go to 
school, it could hardly be otherwise. Even in a fully schooled society, 
however, few children learn to read easily and well, although almost all 
learn to speak easily and well, a skill learned outside of school. Children 
who do learn to read well read a lot for their own pleasure, which suggests 
that good reading — like other skills — is the result of practice. Data on 
mathematics give even less support to school. Illiterates, who participate in a 

money economy all learn to count, add, subtract, multiply and divide, while 
only a small percentage of people in a fully schooled society ever learn 
much more. Of those who take algebra in high school, only a small 
percentage do better than chance on an objective test. 

There is a body of data collected by Jerome Bruner and his students 
showing that children who go to school learn concepts, which are not 
learned by those who do not go to school. The concepts studied were those 
made famous by Jean Piaget, who found that most French and Swiss 
children learn at about ages six to eight that water poured from a short fat 
cylinder into a tall thin one is still the same amount of water. Bruner's 
students found that African bush children who go to schools, which are 
patterned after the French, learn such concepts much better than similar 
children who do not go to school. These experiments did not, however, test 
the effect of relevant learning environments other than school. Until a 
unique effect of schooling is demonstrated, with everything else controlled, 
Bruner's data show only that environments affect concept learning and 
suggest that the more relevant the environment is to the concept the more 
effect it has. 

Another claim is that schools teach the grammar of language, the theories 
of mathematics, science and the arts. Undoubtedly they do; but the real 
question is whether these things are learned in school more than they would 
be otherwise. Achievement tests give little support to schools. As in the case 
of mathematics, only a small minority of students do better than chance on 
the formal aspects of any subject matter. Students who are interested in these 
matters learn them and those who are not do not. Whether interest in them is 
stimulated by schools remains very doubtful. Einstein, commenting upon a 
short period he had to spend in school preparing for a degree examination, 
said that as a consequence he was, for several years afterwards, unable to do 
any creative work. 

The pernicious effect of schools on cognitive learning, of which Einstein 
complains, is best seen by contrasting the impact of schooling on privileged 
and underprivileged children. The underprivileged, whose home 
environments are lacking in the specialized resources schools provide, are 
relatively unsuccessful in school and soon leave it with an experience of 
failure, a conviction of inadequacy and a dislike for the specialized learning 
resources of which they are subsequently deprived. The privileged, whose 
home environments rare rich in the specialized resources of the school, who 

would learn on their own most of what the school has to teach, enjoy relative 
success in school and become hooked on a system which rewards them for 
learning without the exercise of effort or initiative. Thus, the poor are 
deprived both of motivation and of the resources, which the school reserves 
for the privileged. The privileged, on the other hand, are taught to prefer the 
school's resources to their own and to give up self-motivated learning for the 
pleasures of being taught. The minorities of Einstein's and Eldridge Cleavers 
lose only a little time. The majority loses their main chance for an education. 

First-hand knowledge is the ultimate basis of intellectual life. To a large 
extent book learning conveys second-hand information, and as such can 
never rise to the importance of immediate practice.... What the learned world 
tends to offer is one second-hand scrap of information illustrating ideas 
derived from another second-hand scrap of information. The second- 
handedness of the learned world is the secret of its mediocrity. It is tame 
because it has never been scared by facts. 

Alfred North Whitehead: The Aims of Education and Other Essays 


It may seem academic to distinguish what schools do from what schools 
are, but the purpose of the distinction is very practical. Alternatives to 
schools cannot be formulated unless we can define school. Schools perform 
necessary social functions, which, in some form and combination, always 
have to be performed. Some people believe that schools can be reformed 
while others hold that no specialized alternatives to schools are needed, 
since all the education men require can come as a by-product of their other 
activities. Neither position can be refuted or properly evaluated without a 
definition of school. The reasons for defining schools are heuristic; to know 
better what to do and what to avoid in planning alternatives. Precision, 
therefore, is less important in the definition than usefulness in practice. We 
define schools as institutions, which require full-time attendance of specific 
age groups in teacher-supervised classrooms for the study of graded 
curricula. The better this definition fits an institution the more nearly does 
the institution correspond to the stereotype of school. Alternatives in 
education can be most generally defined as moving away from this 
stereotype. Unless they move far enough and fast enough, however, to 
escape the 'gravitational puli' of the school system, they will be re-absorbed. 

By specifying the age of required attendance, schools institutionalize 
childhood. In schooled societies, childhood is now assumed to be a timeless 
and universal phenomenon. But children, in the modern sense, did not exist 
three hundred years ago and still do not exist among the rural and urban poor 
who make up most of the population of the world. In his Centuries of 
Childhood Phillipe Aries shows that, before the seventeenth century, 
children dressed as adults, worked with adults, were imprisoned, tortured 
and hanged like adults, were exposed to sex, disease and death, and in 
general did not have a special status. The sub-culture of childhood did not 
exist.' The medieval church assumed that children, baptized in infancy, 
reached the age of reason at about the age of seven; this meant that they 
were from then on fully responsible for their acts, not only to men but also to 
God. They were capable, that is, either by positive acts or by neglect, of 
consigning themselves to everlasting torment. In its time this doctrine was 
not unique. Children were treated no more tenderly in the Arab or Oriental 
worlds or, for that matter, in Africa or America. 

All cultures, of course, distinguish infants and sexually immature youth 
from adults. All cultures have initiation rites which signal entrance into full 
adult status. All cultures make some distinction between what adults and 
non-adults may do and have done to them. This is not to say, however, that 
all cultures have a sub-culture of childhood. Children in the western culture 
are not expected to work, except at their studies. Children are not 
responsible for any nuisance, damage or crime they commit upon society. 
Children do not count, legally or politically. Children are supposed to play, 
enjoy themselves and prepare themselves for adult life. They are supposed to 
go to school, and the school is supposed to be responsible for them, guide 
them and, temporarily at least, take the place of their parents. Childhood 
explains the priority, which schools give to custodial care. 

Childhood must also be viewed in contrast with modern, pre-retirement 
adult life. Childhood and the adult world of work have been drawing apart. 
While children have been increasingly indulged, pre-retirement adults — 
women as well as men — have been increasingly molded to the world of 
machines and institutions. Childhood has become more child-centered, more 
indulgent, while adults have been increasingly constrained. The argument 
for schools is that they provide a necessary bridge from childhood to adult 
life, that they gradually transform the indulged child into the responsible 
adult. Schools take the child from his garden, by carefully graded steps, to a 

prototype of the world of work. They enroll the 'complete child' and 
graduate the 'complete man'. 

As in the case of the school, childhood has probably served a useful 
purpose. The pre-childhood treatment of children was, and is, undesirably 
brutal. Many of the protections childhood has brought to children are 
important and necessary — so much so that it is vital to extend them, not 
only to other children, but also to adults. Sexual abuse, under conditions, 
which make consent a farce, is one example. The exploitation of labor under 
similar conditions is another: one parry has the choice of working or starving 
while the other has to choose merely between one laborer and another. The 
enforcement or neglect of conditions which stunt the growth or 
unnecessarily limit the opportunities of children, or adults, need to be 
prohibited and prevented wherever they occur. But this is impossible if the 
indulgence of already indulged children is endlessly multiplied. 

Furthermore, while some protections and indulgences are necessary and 
good, too many are bad, and we have reached and passed many thresholds in 
the institution of childhood at which benefits become liabilities. Many of 
these are obvious and need no argument. One, which has already been noted, 
is the extension of the age of childhood to include fully mature adults, so 
long as these adults remain in school. Much of the protest on the part of 
youth is related to this fact, as is the resentment by adults of this protest. The 
case for youth is obvious. Old enough to have children of their own and to 
fight for them, they are encouraged to do only the latter and are denied the 
right to participate fully in the economic product of the society. The adult 
case is also easy to understand. These children, they say, want to remain 
children and yet to enjoy the privileges of adults. In part, the adults are right. 
What they forget is that youth did not create the institution of childhood but 
were created by it. 

Schools, as creators of social reality, do not stop with children. They also 
create schoolteachers. Before there were schools there were caretakers of 
children, gymnastic disciplinarians enforcing practice, and masters with 
disciples. None of these three assumed that learning resulted from teaching, 
while schools treat learning as if it were the product of teaching. 

The role of the schoolteacher in this process is a triple one, combining the 
functions of umpire, judge and counselor. As umpire, the teacher rules 
answers right or wrong, assigns grades and decides upon promotion. As 
judge, the teacher induces guilt in those who cheat, neglect their homework, 

or otherwise fail to live up to the moral norms of the school. As counselor, 
the teacher hears excuses for failure to meet either academic or moral 
standards and counsels the student on choices to be made both inside the 
school and out. This description fails to sound strange only because students 
are regarded as people without civil rights. Imagine combining the role of 
policeman, judge and attorney for the defense — or the role of buyer, 
appraiser and economic counselor — or the role of referee, athletic 
commissioner and coach. In a purely formal sense, the student in this 
situation is helpless, while the teacher is omnipotent. 

In American schools the teacher is obviously not omnipotent. Almost the 
reverse seems to be true. How can this be explained? Teachers have the roles 
and powers described above. They also exercise them, but usually not 
effectively. This is because the system has broken down, but the breakdown 
is itself inherent in the distortion which school creates in the true roles of the 
teacher. As suggested above, these were exemplified in the preschool era: in 
the Greek slave who safeguarded his young charges in their excursions about 
the city, in the disciplinarian who kept them at their practice of arms, in the 
master prepared to dispute with them in matters of politics, ethics and 
philosophy. Of these, only the disciplinarian survived without major 
distortion in the early schools. Drill with the pen rather than the sword 
involved only a change of instrument, and the method was equally effective. 
Schools stopped being effective in teaching skills when this method was 
abandoned. The other two roles were totally distorted in their incorporation 
into school. The caretaker role depended completely for in educational 
validity upon not over-stepping its bounds. The caretaker slave had nothing 
to say about place, time or activity except to keep his charges within the 
bounds of safety. The educational value of the activities depended upon 
student selection and conduct. The master was also transformed into his 
opposite when placed within the school. His true role was to be questioned 
and to answer in such a way as to provoke ever-deeper questions. In the 
school, this role is reversed — the master becomes the questioner and is 
forced to propound orthodoxy rather than provoke exploration. 

Children and teachers do not yet make a school. Without required 
attendance in specialized space, teachers and children could be a home, a 
nursery or a crusade. Required classroom attendance adds the time and space 
dimensions, which imply that knowledge can be processed, and that children 
have an assigned time and place. During infancy they belong in the home. At 
kindergarten age they begin to belong, for a few hours a day, in school. The 

amount of school time increases with age, until college becomes Alma 
Mater, sacred or soul mother, the social womb in which the child develops 
and from which he is finally delivered into the adult world. Classrooms may 
be varied to include laboratory, workshop, gymnasium and year abroad, but 
this is all scholastic space — sanitized, sealed off from the unclean world, 
made fit for children and for the transmission of knowledge. In this 
specialized environment, knowledge must be transmitted; it cannot merely 
be encountered, since in most instances it has been taken out of its natural 
habitat. It must also be processed, not only to clean it up but also to facilitate 

The transmission of knowledge through teaching, and it's processing to fit 
school and school children, seems perfectly natural in a technological age, 
which engineers a product to fit every human need. Once knowledge 
becomes a product, the graded curriculum follows an ordered array of 
packets of knowledge each with its time and space assignment, in proper 
sequence and juxtaposed with related packages. The graded curriculum is 
the fourth dimension of the school. As in the case of the other defining 
characteristics, its quantitative aspects are critically important. Childhood 
becomes a problem when extended over too many years and too many 
aspects of life. Teaching becomes a problem when students begin to depend 
upon it for most learning. Classroom attendance becomes a problem when it 
builds sterile walls around too much of normal life. Similarly, curriculum 
becomes a problem as it approaches international universality. How much 
required attendance, classroom teaching and curriculum is tolerable is not a 
matter for academic discussion. Free people, choosing freely as individuals 
and in voluntary groups among an ample array of alternatives, can best make 
these decisions. 

Recent international achievement studies demonstrate quite clearly that the 
universal international curriculum is now a fact. International norms for 
mathematics and science have been established. These are admittedly the 
areas of greatest uniformity but others are not far behind. Nor is the 
proliferation of vocational schools, black studies and life-adjustment classes 
a significant counter-trend. These auxiliary curricula are either tied to the 
core curriculum, in terms of prerequisites and grade standards, or else the 
degrees they lead to are meaningless in the market place. 

The graded curriculum may be the most significant characteristic of the 
school, especially in terms of the school's role in society. This, however, is 

only because the curriculum is the keystone of a system based on 
institutionalized childhood, teaching and classroom attendance. Curriculum 
gives structure to these other elements, uniting them in a way, which 
determines the unique impact of school on students, teachers and society. 

In itself, the central idea of curriculum is both simple and inevitable. 
Learning must occur in some sequence and there must also be some 
correlation between different sequences of learning. These sequences and 
correlations could, of course, be different for each individual. To some 
extent they must be, and every educator pays lip service to this idea. Almost 
no one, on the other hand, would insist upon avoiding all attempts to 
correlate the learning programmes of different individuals. 

For a teacher to impose a preferred order on his subject matter is natural 
and desirable. To adjust this order to the needs of each individual student is 
also desirable, but at some point may become self-defeating. It is also 
desirable that teachers learn from each other and adjust their own order of 
teaching accordingly. But imposing upon teachers an order not of their own 
choosing is undesirable, and requiring students to follow a particular order, 
except in deference to a particular teacher, is self-defeating. Only people 
committed to the idea of a knowledge factory, which must run on a 
prearranged schedule, will disagree. The argument that students and teachers 
must be able to transfer from place to place without losing time is valid only 
if the synchronized knowledge factory is assumed. 

Synchronized learning requires, however, not merely a standard order 
imposed on all students and teachers, but also the integration of the different 
orders of the various subject matters. This integration of curricular sequence 
creates the school system, which in turn constrains individual schools in all 
of their major characteristics. Thus, the core curriculum of secondary 
schools is dictated by standard requirements for college entrance. Since the 
economic value of other curricula depends upon their relationship to the core 
curriculum, this curriculum directly or indirectly determines hours of 
attendance, classroom standards, teacher qualifications and entrance 
requirements for the entire secondary-school system. Schools, which deviate 
significantly from any of these norms, lose their accreditation and their 
ability to qualify students for college entrance. Even primary-school reforms 
can survive only if they do not threaten the progression of their graduates 
through the higher reaches of the system. 

It is by way of the standardized graded curriculum, therefore, that schools 
become a system, which then acquires an international monopoly of access 
to jobs and to political and other social roles. It can be argued that this 
monopoly is not by any means complete. Some corporations will still 
employ the unschooled genius, while Roosevelt and Churchill did not have 
to pay more than lip service to the schools they attended. But these are 
exceptions and, if the trend continues, they will not exist for long. 
Organization by grade, standardized intelligence and achievement testing, 
promotion within the system and certification for employment, are all 
justified by a curriculum which determines the internal structure and 
operations of a school, relationships between schools, and relationships 
between school and other institutions. 

Would an educational institution lacking one of the defining characteristics 
proposed above still be recognizable as a school? Perhaps theoretically an 
institution based on children, teachers and classrooms, but without 
curriculum, might be called a school but it would have little resemblance to 
schools, as we know them, and could more accurately be called a collection 
of training centers. Schools without children can be imagined but adults 
would not, for long, put up with teachers, classrooms, required attendance 
and curriculum. Schools for children without teachers are hard to imagine, 
while a child/teacher/curriculum combination appears intrinsically unstable 
without the restraining influence of the classroom. Teachers and children 
alone might work, but they would be hard to recognize as an institution, let 
alone a school. It is easy, on the other hand, to see children, teachers, 
classroom attendance and curriculum as created by and for each other. It is 
also easy to see schools as a stable element in a fully technological world. 
Schools treat people and knowledge the way a technological world treats 
everything: as if they could be processed. Anything can, of course, be 
processed, but only at a price, part of which involves ignoring certain 
aspects of the thing and certain by-products of the process. The price of 
processing people is intrinsically high. They tend to resist. What has to be 
left unprocessed may be the most important part of the person. Some of the 
by-products of educational processing are already evident. The greatest 
danger, however, lies in the prospect of success. A successfully processed 
humanity would lose the little control of its destiny which has always 
distinguished man from the rest of the world.' 

Ritual is play: it defines our Utopias and gives expression to our dreams. 
Ritual is serious play, but if we believe that our ritualized Utopia is an 

accomplished fact, it ceases to be play and becomes an ideological 
instrument of oppression. 

Jordan Bishop 


As the songwriter said, long before Marshall McLuhan, 'It ain't what you 
do, it's the way that you do it'. In the case of schools the medium really is the 
message. Schooling is social ritual, bridging the gap between social theory 
and social practice. In psychological terms, ritual makes it possible to live 
with cognitive dissonance which arises from discrepancies between ideals 
and actions.' Corresponding to ideals and actions at the personal level are 
ideologies and practices at the level of society. To discuss schools in these 
terms is to ask, not what they do functionally, or what they are in essence, 
but how they achieve the effects on behavior, which they observably do 

It may be useful to begin with an example from religion, where ritual is 
more familiar. The discrepancies between Christian precept and Christian 
practice are well known, thanks to ministers and priests. Christians are 
supposed to do unto others, as they would have others do unto them. They 
are supposed to give others double what they ask. They are supposed to 
share all they have and to seek out those in trouble so as to minister to their 
needs. In practice, most nominal Christians are businessmen, professional 
men or workers who drive a hard bargain, look out for their own, regard the 
poor as shiftless and undeserving and stay as far away from prisons, slums 
and charity hospitals as they can. The discrepancies between teaching and 
practice are reconciled by participation in the rituals of church attendance, 
baptism, communion, prayer and Christian burial, to name but a few. There 
are, of course, a minority of Christians who live according to Christ's 
teachings. Among them are such modem martyrs as Camille Torres and 
Martin Luther King, many recent victims of Brazilian torture, and many 
more un-distinguished men and women, all over the world, fighting for 
justice or serving the poor. 

Just how rituals serve to help people believe they are Christians, when 
their behavior deviates sharply from Christian teaching, is not easy to 
understand. It is clear that they do, however, just as saluting the flag helps 
the man who cheats on income tax believe he is a first-class citizen. One 

explanation is that people are fallible; that their intentions matter more than 
their actions, and that ritual provides a means of expressing what is in their 
hearts. This explanation may be plausible where religion and patriotism are 
concerned. It will have hard going when we begin to look at schools. 

Let us look at four ideologies, which play a prominent role in society, 
examine the corresponding realities, and then identify the scholastic rituals, 
which help to bridge the gap between ideology and reality. The ideologies 
selected are those, which deal with equal opportunity, freedom, progress and 

There is equal opportunity, according to the ideology of modern societies, 
for every man to achieve whatever his ambitions dictate and his abilities 
permit. This ideology asserts that all levels and branches of schooling are 
open to all and that only their dedication and brains limit scholars. It 
proclaims that all occupations and social levels are open to anyone with 
enough drive and the ability to deliver the goods. Increasingly the school is 
recognized as the major avenue to occupations and social roles, and the 
openness of scholastic channels is, therefore, stressed as guaranteeing access 
not only to academic but also to social advancement. This is the ideology of 
equal opportunity: pretending to make everyone's advancement depend 
solely upon his own personal qualities. 

The reality is that all advancement is at the expense of others. Schools, 
occupational ladders and social class structures are all hierarchies in the 
shape of pyramids. In school, each higher grade is also smaller. Seldom can 
grades or levels be skipped. Each successive competition must be survived, 
therefore, in order to reach the top. In industry the picture is the same. For 
every president of Standard Oil, ten thousand office boys are left behind. 

At what age are the opportunities equal? At birth? It seems unlikely that at 
birth the son of a president, even though he should begin as office boy, 
would have no better chance than the son of an office boy. But, if not equal 
at birth, the chances certainly become less equal with every year of life. By 
the time school begins, no one has irrevocably lost, but as soon as 
kindergarten is over, grades and IQ scores are recorded, and from then on 
the door is almost closed for those whose grades and scores are low. This is 
not because these grades and scores are valid. Even those who believe in 
them admit that at this age they are highly unreliable.' But judgments have to 
be made. Judgment about which school, which track, which teacher; all 

judgments that vitally influence the chances for the future. Once the 
elementary school is passed, it is nonsense to speak any longer of equal 
opportunity for those who have not done well enough to go on to a good 
academic secondary school. One trade-school boy in thousands may wind up 
as head of a construction company, but this is the great exception. In fact, 
every step up the ladder for one is a step down for another; one can rise to 
the top only over the heads of thousands. Corresponding to the ideology of 
equal opportunity is the reality of enforced inequality, with the odds of 
staying near the bottom many times higher than the odds of getting to the 

'But of course!' will be the reply. This is the nature of hierarchy. Everyone 
understands what equal opportunity means. If this is so, then why not tell it 
like it is? Call it the social lottery. In truth, it would have to be called the 
loaded social lottery, with each child getting as many chances as his father 
has dollars. But this would not suit the purposes served by calling it equal 
opportunity. Everyone is supposed to think he has an equal chance whether 
he does or not. It is better for his morale. For the moment, the question is not 
whether this should or should not be. This is how it is and the question is, 
how is it kept that way? How are people induced to believe, or at least act as 
though they believed, in equal opportunity when in fact there is no such 

They are induced to believe it by ritual progression up the ladder — the 
school ladder, the promotion ladder, the income ladder, the social status 
ladder. As long as people are climbing, it is easy to maintain the illusion that 
all roads lead to the top. One step at a time, that's how one gets there. The 
fact that there isn't enough time in a normal life span for the man who gets to 
the top to touch all the steps on the way is easily overlooked. It makes sense 
that if you climb, step by step, you get to the top. 

There are enough steps so that everyone can climb a few. Grades in school 
are easy enough at first, in rich countries, and almost everyone passes these 
early grades. By the time the going gets rough the lesson has been learned: 
there is equal opportunity, but men just aren't all equal. The job ladder works 
the same way. Everybody except those who really did badly in school gets to 
go up a few steps. Then the intervals get longer. People get a little older. It 
doesn't matter so much anymore. 

Everyone's income also is allowed to rise a little, even if he doesn't get 
promoted. Annual increments, each year a little more; and by the time the 
plateau is reached the illusion is also established that everyone has had a 
chance. Some are just luckier than others. Obviously this is not the whole 
truth. But people are induced to believe it by participation in the ritual of 

The ideology of freedom is that all men have certain inalienable rights: the 
right of assembly, the right of petition for redress of grievances, the right to 
be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to counsel, the 
right not to bear witness against themselves — i.e. to be free from torture in 
the first, second or third degrees. The facts are that all over the world the 
flickering lights of freedom are going out. In the communist world, 
deviationists and enemies of the people have no civil rights. In the capitalist 
world, over half of the nations which were democracies twenty years ago 
now have military regimes, many of which use torture as an everyday 
instrument of government. The remaining 'democratic' governments include 
South Africa, where civil rights extend only to non- Africans and non- 
Asians, and then only if they are careful to leave the issue of apartheid alone. 
In the United States there is the South, where blacks have the rights, which 
whites deign to give them. In the rest of the country peoples' rights are 
increasingly determined by police and national guardsmen. Black Panthers, 
dissident Democrats and college students are ever more in danger of having 
rites instead of rights. 

How is belief in freedom maintained in the face of these facts? Largely by 
the rituals of democratic process. Among other things, the last presidential 
election in the United States helped people forget the police power used at 
the Chicago Convention by one wing of the Democratic Party against the 
other. Equally, the last national election in France helped people forget the 
military and police suppression of students and workers, which had occurred 
just a few months before. These dramatic examples, however, are not as 
important as the daily rituals of democracy in convincing people there is 
freedom where there is increasing domination and suppression. The 
professor, exhibiting his academic freedom by denouncing the 
establishment, students flaunting hair styles and kicking up their bare feet, 
sit-ins, paint-ins, sleep-ins and pot parries — useful as these things are, they 
serve to reassure people that they are still free when in fact they may not be. 

In the outside world, we have the angry editorial, the enterprising 
reporter's expose, the new magazine going the old ones one better, and the 
legislative investigation. A few serve good purposes. Many more merely 
help to maintain the illusion of freedom. These examples are deliberately 
chosen not to represent pure ritual. Whether the acts cited above are real or 
ritual depends on who is doing what for what purpose. Ritual plays a 
positive as well as a negative role in human affairs. The fact that the rituals 
of freedom are equivocal testifies to the duality of ritual as well as to the 
subtleties of freedom. With few exceptions, only those who know how to 
play the game — those already in positions of privilege even though dissident 
are able to — use the liberty which democratic process provides. Those who 
are deprived have little real access to democratic process. This is one reason 
Jefferson despaired of orderly reform, carried out within the rules. But the 
rules themselves, ritually followed, disguise the basis for Jefferson's reliance 
on periodic revolution. The democratic process, in school and society, helps 
people accept the discrepancy between the assumption of freedom and the 
facts of domination and suppression. We do not want to lose our democratic 
process but neither do we want to delude ourselves about how much 
freedom we have. We can extend the limits of our own and other people's 
freedom only if we know what obstacles stand in the way. 

The ideology of progress is that our situation is improving and will 
continue to improve, without any demonstrable limits upon the degree or 
scope of future improvements. The facts are that we are near the limits at 
which the atmosphere can absorb more heat or the seas more pollution, near 
the limits of the earth to support more population, near the limits of the 
patience of the poor to subsist on the bounty of the rich, near the limits of the 
rich themselves to either tighten further the screws they have fastened on 
themselves or to live much longer with the indulgences they have invented. 
People who do not want to face the implications of these facts say that the 
problems they imply will be solved by new discoveries and inventions. But 
the discoveries and inventions of the past have merely brought us to our 
present predicament. Future discoveries and inventions can only sharpen this 
predicament. For regardless of how near or far away the limits are there can 
be little doubt that they exist, while the ideology of progress knows no 
limits. The earth, human population and human nature are all finite while 
progress is infinite. This theoretical problem might not have to bother people 
if various kinds of progress were in reasonable balance, but this is not the 
case. Our ability to kill each other and ourselves is growing much faster than 
our productive capacity. The gap between the rich and the poor is rapidly 

widening. Psychological tensions are increasing much faster than our ability 
to deal with them. 

The ideology of progress is, then, faced with a set of very hard facts, 
which contradict its assumptions. How are these contradictions reconciled? 
They are kept from consciousness primarily by the ritual of research — the 
continuing quest for new knowledge, new insights, new techniques. 
Research is a very important non-ritual fact, but it is also an important ritual. 
The ritual of research induces the belief that new discoveries change the 
whole picture, that every day is a new day with a new set of rules and 
possibilities. This is clearly false. Even the most important new discoveries 
and inventions leave almost everything else unchanged. The invention of 
breeder reactors stretched the world's supply of fissionable material 
enormously. Nuclear fission extends the limits of possible energy sources 
even more. But these far-reaching developments do not affect the absorption 
capacity of the atmosphere at all. They have no effect on human population 
except to threaten its total annihilation. They influence man's ability to think 
and to govern himself in only the slightest degree. Yet the myth of renewal 
by research, the belief that major new discoveries can renew all terms of all 
problems — this myth and belief permit men to avoid seeing the very hard 
barriers to further progress, which in fact exist. 

Research is so identified with school that its impact as ritual renewal 
affects students even more than it does the general population. The greatest 
impact of research on students, however, comes by way of its effects on 
curriculum. One of the hallmarks of modern schooling, which separates it 
most sharply from its own tradition, is that its offerings are labeled as ever 
new. Yesterday's knowledge is out of date. In Norway serious thought is 
being given to declaring degrees more than five years old invalid. The merit 
of this proposal is that it belatedly recognizes what was always true, that 
degrees have little validity. Its rationale, however, is that five-year-old 
knowledge is no longer valid. Every worker is obliged to come back 
periodically to the school to refurbish the knowledge he received the last 
time. Real education is, of course, a lifetime process. But real education and 
real research are also continuous, not periodic processes. Genuine research 
and education integrate the new into the much greater mass of the old, and 
this can only be done in the course of work, in the actual discovery and 
application of the new. The ritual of renewal does serve its purpose, the 
purpose of recreation, which need not be superficial. When it clothes the 
nakedness of the myth of progress, however, it does a great disservice. And 

this it does particularly by way of the school. The illusion that knowledge 
must be contemporary to be valid stands between the generations. This 
conceit of the young is largely the result of the ritual of curriculum renewal 
as practiced by the school. 

The ideology of efficiency is that modem man has solved his production 
problems by means of efficient organization, that other men can do likewise, 
and that most of man's remaining problems can be solved by a similar 
approach. The fact is, as Kenneth Boulding has recently suggested, that 
gross national product, the current measure of a nation's output, is actually a 
measure of economic inefficiency. Employment in the wealthier countries 
increasingly follows Parkinson's Law —that employment increases as 
production decreases. More and more people in the wealthier countries are 
employed in the service sector, doing things of dubious value. Consider 
government and corporate bureaucrats, salesmen, advertisers, bankers, 
accountants, lawyers, teachers, policemen, soldiers, polltakers, social 
workers, for example. There is no doubt that all of these people do 
something that someone values, but there is also little doubt that as many 
people hate what they do. Lawyers provide the clearest example; for every 
winner at law there is a loser. The same thing holds, a little less obviously, 
for all of the kinds of workers listed above and for many other services as 
well. Many physical goods are also of dubious value. Military weapons, 
pornography and billboards certainly have as many detractors as supporters. 
Super-jets, automobiles, gravestones and schools are also in the doubtful 
category. Meat products, tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and fluoridated water 
all have varying degrees of opposition. The point is not that work is bad or 
even, in itself, of doubtful value. It is rather that the value of work depends 
upon what it produces. 

Most people would agree that efficiency is misapplied to killing, loving 
and eating, for example. But the ideology of efficiency does not reflect these 
reservations. Its high priests have no qualms about drugging children to keep 
them quiet in school, using electric shock to torture prisoners or napalm to 
bum Vietnamese villages. How, then, are the discrepancies between the 
ideology and the facts of efficiency kept from overwhelming the public 
conscience? The answer is that it is done through the ritual of activity. 

Schools learned long ago that the way to keep children from thinking is to 
keep them busy. Classes, clubs, athletics, cultural activities, homework; the 
devil finds work for idle hands to do. This is also how attacks on the 

efficiency of the school are met — more courses, more degrees, more 
activities, more enrolment. The graduates of school are well prepared to 
participate in the activity rites of the outside world: more committees, more 
projects, more campaigns, more products, more industries, more 
employment, and more gross national product. Not all activity is ritual. But 
in a nation capable of producing all of its agricultural and industrial products 
with 5 per cent of its labor force, as is the United States, ritual must account 
for much of the remaining 95 per cent. It must also account for much of the 
time of adults who are not in the labor force and of students who are in 

Schools have succeeded in ritualizing education because they serve 
societies, which dedicate themselves to consumption, which assume that 
man wants principally to consume and that in order to consume endlessly he 
must bind himself to the wheel of endless production. The whole theory of 
schooling is based on the assumption that production methods applied to 
learning will result in learning. They do result in learning how to produce 
and consume — so long as nothing fundamental changes. As a means of 
learning to adapt to changing circumstances, production methods are 
ridiculous. The need to distinguish these two kinds of learning is kept from 
our attention mainly by our participation in the scholastic ritual. 

A single shelf of a good European Library was worth the whole native 
literature of India and Arabia.... It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that 
all the historical information which has been collected from all the books 
written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in 
the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England.... I 
think it clear that ... neither as the languages of the law nor as the languages 
of religion, have the Sanskrit and Arabic any peculiar claim to our 
engagement, that it is possible to make natives of this country thoroughly 
good English scholars and that to this end our efforts ought to be directed.... 
We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters 
between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in 
blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. 
Lord Macaulay: Parliamentary minute on Indian education 


School is a stage in a succession of specialized institutions. Prehistoric 
rites, myths and shamans, temples and priestly castes, Sumerian, Grecian, 

Alexandrian and Roman schools, monastic orders, early universities, 
common and grammar schools — all have played a part in the history of the 
national and international school system of today. Counterparts can be found 
for the functions and elements of modern schools at each stage of this 
history. Comparisons, which span millennia, run the risk of distorting 
meanings, but this risk is worth taking in order to learn from the educational 
trends and inventions of the past. One of the most general and instructive 
trends is the progressive specialization of content, method, personnel and 
location in something, which was originally much more than education and 
which, in schooling, has become something much less. 

Since 1830 archaeology and anthropology have extended the history of 
man many tens of thousands of years. As far back as the record goes, man 
has engaged in specialized activities which have important things in 
common with what goes on in schools. Rites and rituals — symbolic 
practices seemingly unnecessary to the satisfaction of elementary physical 
needs — have always been part of man's repertoire. In this man is not unique; 
animals engage in similar practices which seem to serve no elementary 
function, and even sometimes to harm the individual or the species. As far 
back as man's record goes, we also find evidence of people and places 
specialized in and for the use of myth and ritual. Some of the earliest records 
are in just such places: the caves of southern France and Spain, famous for 
their paintings of prehistoric animals, were apparently used largely for ritual 
practices. The only human figures included in the paintings are those of 
shamans, who combined the teacher's role with that of priest, magician, 
actor, artist, poet and ideologue. These, at any rate, are roles combined in 
shamans of existing tribes, whose technology and art resemble those of 
prehistoric man. 

Reasoning both from archaeological and modern anthropological evidence, 
it appears that prehistoric rites shared certain elements of current curricula. 
They had an age-specific character, acting out the myths related to birth, 
adolescence and death. They explained and celebrated both the everyday and 
the unusual aspects of the world. They provided activity for idle periods that 
followed hunt or harvest. They allowed young people to try on adult roles 
for size. 

The line between prehistoric and historic time is marked by the invention 
of writing, which corresponds roughly in time to the establishment of cities 
and the great religions. Education emerged out of the practice of worship 

and government. Its early home was the temple-court and its early 
practitioners were specialized priests. Writing itself was probably invented 
by such specialists. Shamans and priests are, thus, in the central line not only 
of the development of teachers and schools but of the evolution of man. 
Brain, hand and tongue; horde, village and city; magic, religion, art and 
science — these are the milestones of man's physical, social and spiritual 
development. The priest-hoods of city-based religions inherited from their 
country-cousin shamans a mixture of magic, religion, art and science, which 
they began to disentangle and specialize. It is relatively well established that 
not only writing but accounting and mathematics, astronomy and chemistry, 
music, painting and poetry had their early development in the temple-courts 
of Egyptian, Sumerian and other ruling castes, which combined the 
functions of priest and king. The first formalized teaching of there arts, 
which still make up most of the modern core-curriculum, must have been a 
master-apprentice type of teaching. Even earlier, a kind of teaching among 
equals must have occurred, as one individual shared his discoveries or 
developments with others. Here is one of the two main roots of the modem 
school, at the very origin of systematic knowledge. This root does not appear 
again, in an institutionally prominent form, until the rise of the universities 
of the Middle Ages. 

The other, much humbler, root makes its first appearance in a Sumerian 
classroom built to accommodate about thirty children, the discovery of 
which led to the speculation that modern modal class-size may have been 
based on the limitations of Sumerian brick and architecture. 

Plato and Aristophanes were the first to leave surviving written records of 
classroom and school. These first schools of classical Athens were humble 
indeed — mere appendages to an educational programme which stressed 
military training, athletics, music and poetry, and which taught reading, 
writing and arithmetic almost as an afterthought. Originally all education in 
Athens was tutorial — one aspect of personal relationships which were often 
erotic as well. As Athens became more democratic, and pupils began to 
outnumber masters, group instruction gradually replaced the tutorial 

Soon after the first reference in Greek writing to group instruction in 
literary arts and skills, schools of medicine and philosophy are also 
mentioned and, soon afterwards, a class of schools conducted by Sophist 
philosophers. These first models of intermediate schools were based on 

contracts between a master and a group of parents for the instruction of their 
sons during a three or four year period of their adolescence. The Sophists 
were the first paid teachers on record, and their aim, appropriately, was 
practical: to make of their students successful men of affairs. 

From these meager beginnings in the golden age of Greece, there 
flourished in the Hellenistic colonies scattered by the conquests of 
Alexander all over the ancient world school systems prophetic of our own in 
organization, curriculum and the age-span of students. Children first learned 
reading, writing and numbers, and later were taught gymnastics, music, and 
the classics of literature, geometry and science. The museums of Alexandria 
and other cities specialized in the teaching of medicine, rhetoric and 
philosophy. Most of these centers, patronized largely by Greek families, 
were privately financed, although a few small cities had public systems 
while others were supported by foundations established by wealthy men. 

One of the main purposes of these schools was to keep alive the Hellenic 
tradition in a barbarian world. Only a small minority of the Greek population 
of the Alexandrian world was ever able to take full advantage of them. 

The Romans adopted the Hellenistic school and, with minor modifications, 
used it for the education of their own elite. From the fall of Athens to the fall 
of Byzantium, therefore, a tiny minority of the world's population was 
schooled in somewhat the fashion of today. The school was not, however, an 
important institution in Greco-Roman or in Byzantine times except for its 
role in preserving the memory and some of the culture of ancient Greece 
until the time of the Renaissance in western Europe. 

Except in Byzantium, the fall of Rome resulted in a reunion of education 
and religion, which lasted for a thousand years. The educational institutions 
of the Middle Ages were the cathedral schools and the monasteries. More 
specialized in their purpose than the ancient temples, they also had a more 
limited educational role; they did, nevertheless, introduce a number of 
important ideas into the history of western education. In the earliest 
Benedictine monasteries, space and time became the parameters of learning 
as well as of living. Every hour of Benedictine life had its appointed place 
and task. Adherence to this regimen constituted the good life; no external 
product or other sign presumed to attest the efficacy of the life thus lived. 

The subsequent Dominican and Franciscan orders were based on different 
principles. Dependence upon the charity of others and identification with the 

poor replaced the bondage of time and space. As in the case of the 
Benedictine rituals, begging and the care of the sick and destitute were not 
designed as training for subsequent living but as a way of life. 

The preparatory principle of education was revived by the Jesuits, who in 
the sixteenth century extended and rationalized schooling well beyond the 
limits of Greco-Roman times. The ancient schools had never been more than 
a small part of an educational programme, which was a product of tradition 
rather than of rational forethought. The Jesuits developed a curriculum and 
an educational method deliberately designed to prepare men not merely for 
an ordinary life but for a life of unprecedented scope and challenge. At least 
part of the subsequent growth of schooling is undoubtedly due to their initial 
brilliant successes. 

Originally intended for members of an elite religious order, Jesuit 
schooling was soon extended to the lay elites of the European medieval 
world. The rate of this extension and the circumstances under which it 
occurred are strongly reminiscent of the sudden growth of Greek schooling 
following the conquest of Alexander. It was the insecurity rather than the 
dominance of the Greek colonies of Alexandrian times, which caused them 
to build and depend upon schools; it was the insecurity of the Roman church 
in the time of Ignatius, which accounts for the formation and rapid growth of 
the Jesuit system of schools. In both cases, the school was seen as a way of 
preserving a set of values, which were losing their dominance. 

This chronology of the Christian orders has run ahead of at least one major 
event in the history of schooling — the foundation of the first medieval 
universities. Originally devoted primarily to the study of Christian theology, 
they quickly branched into other fields of knowledge and, long before the 
Reformation, had become independent institutions in so far as this was 
possible in medieval Europe. Along with their counterparts in the Moslem 
world, the universities of Bologna, Salerno and Paris became the first 
institutions of any size devoted primarily to the development and 
propagation of knowledge. They were also, of course, the direct 
predecessors of modern universities, and thus of the upper layer of the 
present school system. 

Luther and his followers, coinciding so neatly in time with Gutenberg's 
invention of movable type, gave a vast stimulus to the growth of the lower 
schools in northern Europe. The large-scale printing of bibles, and the 

doctrine that salvation was directly derivable from them, made the teaching 
of reading a moral imperative for Protestants who could afford it. The 
industrial revolution, coming so closely on the heels of the Reformation, 
supplied the last condition necessary for the rapid proliferation of schools, 
providing not only the means, but also a secular rationale for widespread 

Mere growth in the number of schools did not result in school systems. 

This dimension of schooling came with the development of the nation state. 
Thus, while public schools first burgeoned in the federated United States, the 
first integrated systems of schooling developed in France and Prussia. The 
Prussian development, although later, was the clearer cut and became an 
important international model. In Prussia and later in Germany, the 
development of the school system was coterminous with the development of 
the nation state and was deliberately designed to be one of its principal 

One aspect of the German school system was the teaching of high German, 
the language of the school and the unifying language of the state. A 
common, graded, integrated curriculum was another — designed to serve the 
military, political and manpower needs of the nation. A hierarchically 
organized teaching profession was still another. Most important of all was a 
carefully thought out philosophy of education, reflected in school 
organization, logistics, curriculum, teacher recruitment, teaching methods 
and scholastic ritual, and aimed at producing a citizenry tailored to the 
specifications of the architects of the German nation state. No other national 
system has been so systematically designed. But all nations, in copying to a 
greater or lesser degree the major features of the German system, have in 
effect adopted its objectives and its methods. England has perhaps copied 
them least, but even England's former colonies have followed Germany 
more than England. 

In France the idea of a national school system first arose partly in 
opposition to the Jesuits who, in the sixteenth century, were among the 
principal educators of the elites. Despite the suppression of the order in 
1763, and the attempts of the legislators of the French Revolution, public 
schools made little headway. After the restoration of the Monarchy the 
Jesuits and, at the primary level, the Christian Brothers again played an 
important role in French education. The educational reform law of 1834 
called for friendly relations between church and state, but the resulting 

collaboration did not survive the crisis crested by the French defeat in 1870. 
The power of Prussian arms was attributed by many to the efficiency of their 
national school system and no effort was spared to initiate a similar system 
in France. 

Public schools in the United States have also had a long and complicated 
history. Despite the early establishment of public schools in New England, 
Pennsylvania and Virginia, these schools remained for a long time under 
local control and, except in New England, the privilege of a relatively small 
minority. The original New England schools were quasi-universal, without 
being compulsory, because their promoters shared a common conception of 
man, God and the world. Even in New England, public schooling became 
much less than universal with the influx of non-Puritan immigrants 
beginning early in the nineteenth century. It was, in fact, this lapse from a 
brief tradition of universal schooling that led Horace Mann to formulate the 
modern American concept of the public school. 

Mann's public schools required attendance because persons of different 
origins, values and faiths had to be brought to share a common conception, 
which the Pilgrims had taken for, granted. These two approaches to 
universal public schooling illustrate the contradictions, which have brought a 
glorious promise to a dismal end. Thomas Jefferson, Orestes Brownson and 
John Dewey" saw universal education as the means of equipping men to 
discover their beliefs and to create their institutions. St Ignatius of Loyola, 
Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Horace Mann saw a similar process as the means 
of shaping men to the requirements of social goals and institutions assumed 
to have prior validity. 

These ideological strains combined to make public schools popular with 
both the privileged and the deprived. For the latter, they held the promise of 
equal opportunity; for the former, the promise of orderly progression under 
control of the elite. To a degree, both promises were realized, but the 
contradictions inherent in them have become steadily more obvious as the 
balance of power has shifted from citizens to the state. In their time, Locke 
and Jefferson prevailed. John Dewey's more recent effort to put man back in 
the saddle was merely given lip service. 

The organizational, legal and procedural steps which have welded tens of 
thousands of nominally independent local school districts and thousands of 

colleges and universities into a national school system are the logical 
outcome of a philosophy which views schools as serving national ends. 

The popularity of such a philosophy, in a century, which has seen the 
number of nations in the world more than tripled, is not surprising. The 
proliferation of nation states is clearly one of the major factors in the growth 
of the international school system. Regardless of reasons, however, the 
actual development of such a system is one of the amazing facts of human 
history. Schools are, of course, only one of the technological institutions, 
which have spread from Europe and North America over the rest of the 
world; but all of the others are more easily explained, while none has spread 
like schooling. Universal schooling has become part of the official 
programme of almost every nation. Every state must have an university, 
every city its high school, every hamlet its primary school. All nations look 
to the leading nations for models of curriculum, scholastic organization and 
scholastic standards. Capitalist and communist nations compete in schooling 
their populations, with as little argument about the standards of competition 
as in the Olympics. 

How is all this to be explained? Technology, the profit motive and the 
world struggle for power explain most of the growth of international 
institutions. None of them directly explains the case of schooling. Similarity 
of constitutions and codes of law can in some cases be explained as the 
residue of empire and in others as ideological emulation. The spread of 
hospitals and medical technology can be attributed to the demonstrated 
efficacy of at least some aspects of modem medicine. There is nothing 
comparable in modern schooling; schools are as free of the obligation to 
justify themselves as were the Benedictine monasteries. 

European world domination during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries 
helps to explain the existence of school systems in former colonies. Japanese 
schools can also be explained in part as a colonial phenomenon, developed 
as part of a general western pattern and adopted to avoid colonization. 
Schools have clearly lagged the most in those parts of the world least 
influenced by European and American industrialization. 

Schools have served a major purpose in the consolidation of the new 
nation states, which grew out of the wreckage of empire. They also serve the 
elites of these new nations, providing access to international politics, 
economics and culture. This does not, however, explain the international 

popularity of mass education. The real explanation can be traced back to the 
two previous historic explosions of schooling, the Alexandrian and the 

As noted, both of these occurred at times when traditional value systems 
were in jeopardy. This is again the case, but this time the values involved are 
more basic and more universal than those of Hellas or medieval Europe. In 
question now are the assumptions of a society based on hierarchy of 
privilege. The technology which invalidates there assumptions has created 
the antidote for its own effects: a school system which promises access to 
the goods of technology but denies it in fact. 

Modem technology relieves man, for the first time in history, of the need 
to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. All pre-industrial societies 
required close to 80 per cent of the labor force to be engaged in agriculture. 
Now, using existing techniques, 5 per cent of the labor force of a modern 
society could produce all of the agricultural and industrial goods currently 

Even now, 10 per cent of the labor force of the United States produces 90 
per cent of its agricultural and industrial output. And this is almost entirely 
prior to the application of existing methods of automation, and in the face of 
widespread job-protective pressures from organized labor. Nevertheless, the 
United States is producing record agricultural surpluses while paying 
farmers billions of dollars to restrict production. Additional billions of 
dollars of industrial goods are being produced for commercial export, over 
and above the value of goods imported. A huge bill of military goods is 
being produced while massive space and research programmes are under 
way. If labor and management could agree upon the objective, 5 per cent of 
the United States labor force could within a very few years produce the 
goods currently being consumed by the domestic civilian population. This 
bill of goods, although badly distributed, leaving many people deprived, is 
nevertheless enormously wasteful in its average composition. It provides an 
excessive and otherwise unhealthful diet, clothing which is discarded 
because of style changes rather than wear, so-called durable goods which are 
made to wear out in a few years, a tremendous packaging component which 
merely multiplies the pollution problem, and an unbelievable quantity of 
junk which serves only to relieve the boredom of people whose lives, 
devoted to the consumption and production of goods and services, have been 
emptied of real meaning. We would live much better on half as much. Such 

a society does not require a hierarchy of privilege for any of the reasons, 
which have justified such a hierarchy in the past. Modern institutions have 
assumed the burden of maintaining and justifying a continuing hierarchy of 
privilege. Among these institution, school plays a central role. School 
qualifies men for participation in other institutions and convicts those who 
do not meet its requirements of not deserving desirable roles in these 

In less than a hundred years industrial society has molded patent solutions 
to basic human needs and converted us to the belief that man's needs were 
shaped by the Creator as demands for the products we have invented. This is 
as true for Russia and Japan as for the North Atlantic community. The 
consumer is trained for obsolescence, which means continuing loyalty 
toward the same producers who will give him the same basic packages in 
different quality or new wrappings. 

Industrialized societies can provide such packages for personal 
consumption for most of their citizens, but this is no proof that these 
societies are sane, or economical, or that they promote life. The contrary is 
true. The more the citizen is trained in the consumption of packaged goods 
and services, the less effective he seems to be in shaping his environment. 
His energies and finances are consumed in procuring ever-new models of his 
staples, and the environment becomes a by-product of his own consumption 

Ivan Illich: Celebration of Awareness 


Schools are not the only institutions, which promise the world and then 
become the instruments of its denial. This is what churches, to give one 
plural label to all religious institutions, have always done: packaged the free 
gift of God, or nature, so that a price could be exacted for it, and then 
withheld it from people unable or unwilling to pay the price. Churches were 
remarkable among other institutions, until recently, only for their hypocrisy. 
Other traditional institutions never pretended to offer a universal gift. Even 
the prehistoric practitioners of religious magic did not do so. It is the unique 
mark of the great religions that their founders opened the doors of the spirit 
to all and that their priests then succeeded in holding these doors open with 
one hand while charging admission with the other. 

Except for churches, traditional institutions were always openly run for the 
benefit of those who ran them. Courts, kingdoms, armies, empires and 
enterprises belonged to their possessors and shared their benefits only with a 
few and only for a fee. Two non-religious institutions have recently begun to 
make the claim of offering universal access: first, nation states and their sub- 
systems such as schools and, second, modern production enterprises. 

Something for nothing is not the issue. No religious leader has ever 
promised something for nothing, but only that the door would open to all 
those who would follow the path. This is the promise, which churches have 
reneged on, in failing to keep their own doors open, and which many modern 
enterprises and public bureaucracies falsely proclaim. They do more. They 
take elaborate and effective steps, first to sell their promise, and then to 
frustrate its fulfillment. 

As provision for human needs is institutionalized, the institutions in 
question define a product and control access to it. 

They progressively: 

1. Define the product or service, which satisfies the need (e.g. schools 
define education as schooling). 

2. Induce general acceptance of this definition among the needy (e.g. 
people are persuaded to identify education as schooling). 

3- Exclude part of the needy population from full access to the product or 
service (e.g. schools, at some level, are available to only some people). 

4- Pre-empt the resources available for satisfying the need (e.g. schools use 
up the resources available for education). 

The above generalizations hold for health, transportation and many other 
kinds of human needs, as well as for education. 

Health is progressively defined and conceived as access to the services of 
physicians and hospitals and to the products of the drug industry. This access 
is notoriously unequal. The cost of hospitals, doctors and drugs is increasing 
faster than the resources available to pay for them. It can also be argued that 

the health of mature populations, those whose birth and death rates are 
converging, is getting worse as expenditures for hospitals, doctors and drugs 
increase. This is to say that we are achieving a longer sick-life by means of 
these expenditures. People may indulge themselves more as more remedies 
become available, but if more resources were devoted to preventive 
measures, sickness as well as death rates would decline. 

In the case of transportation, the facts are even clearer. The private 
automobile has almost displaced its competitors in many countries. In the 
United States, saturation is reaching the point of declining utility, even for 
owners, yet half the adult population remains without dependable access to a 
private car and has a harder time getting transportation than if cars had never 
been invented. Even in Los Angeles, which reputedly has more cars than 
people, and which is drowning in its own exhaust, there are as many old and 
young people who cannot or are not allowed to drive as there are qualified 
drivers. These people, even those who belong to families which include 
qualified drivers, must wait upon the convenience of their chauffeurs, or vice 

Provision for a category of human need is institutionalized to the extent 
that there is a prevailing standard product or service, a standard production 
and distribution process, and a standard price (with the concept of price 
including all significant conditions of access). It is worth noting that the 
people priced out of the market are convinced not only of their unworthiness 
to participate in it, e.g., their inability to pursue college studies or to wear 
stylish clothes, but also of their unworthiness to participate in the privileges 
which college education and stylish clothes imply. 

Until democracy was popularized and technology institutionalized, claims 
of universal political and economic participation could not be made. Now 
such claims sound plausible and are widely believed. The makers of these 
claims come with specific products designed to meet specific needs. They 
elaborate a package which becomes ever more complex, more exclusive of 
access and more expensive. More basic, however, than product elaboration 
is the identification of need with product. The words education and school, 
health and hospital, transportation and automobile, become inseparable. 
People forget that there were educated men before there were schools, 
healthy men before there were hospitals, and that men walked and rode 
before they drove or flew. 

As institutions grow, more and more people accept the identification of 
need and product. Only the Jews and the Moors of medieval Europe failed to 
identify salvation with the Catholic Church. Women, who throughout history 
have borne their babies in the fields, are now recruited into maternity wards. 
Peasants who have never seen schools vote for the candidates who promise 

The elaboration process effectively prevents the realization of these 
promises, even for the simplest products. Pins and needles can be packaged 
in ever fender collections. Salt can be made a monopoly product and a form 
of tax. One of Gandhi's first struggles in India was against the salt monopoly 
maintained by the British Government. The Italian Government still 
maintains a monopoly on salt except in Sicily, where salt is produced. What 
happens in schools, hospitals and automobiles is common knowledge. 

People are priced out of the market not only directly but also by increasingly 
complicated rules — drivers' licenses, entrance examinations, and insurance 
requirements. There are good reasons for all the rules but their proliferation 
tends to shrink the proportion of qualified consumers. 

There are, of course, opposing processes. Because of consumer credit, 
rising incomes, growth of public systems of schools and hospitals, etc., net 
access to modern institutions may even gradually increase. Beyond question, 
however, the excluded portion of the population, even if declining in 
number, gets steadily worse off as the monopoly of an institutional product 
is established. No resources remain for alternative products. As school 
budgets grow, support for educational alternatives must decline. Not only do 
school dropouts find progressively less educational resources, they also have 
less job opportunities. And, finally, they have fewer excuses. As 
automobiles increase in number, there are less trains and buses; those which 
survive are more expensive, less satisfactory and less profitable. The number 
of new owners of automobiles increased by no more than twenty-five 
million during the past decade. Perhaps a roughly equivalent number 
enjoyed for the first time the benefits of modern medical services other than 
inoculation. The number of school children may have increased by a 
hundred million. But the population of the world increased by almost a 
billion during the decade, so that the numbers without any of these services 
increased vastly more than the numbers with them. Even more were priced 
out of the market during this period. The price of automobiles increased 
substantially, while the cost of medical services and schools multiplied 
several times. Meanwhile, per capita income, on a worldwide basis, rose 

very little. Even if there had been no population growth and other things had 
remained equal, more people would have been priced out of the markets for 
modern goods and services during the 1960s than were added to them. 

Nor can the above figures be written off by labeling the sixties as a bad 
decade, in which major institutions did not function as they are supposed to. 
In a world dominated by competition for privilege, there is no other way that 
institutions can function. The already privileged continue to demand better 
schools, better hospitals, better cars. As the number who enjoy these 
commodities increases, there are ever more people to be supplied with ever 
more expensive packages, making it increasingly difficult to extend this 
privilege to an ever widening ring of an ever growing population. Even 
without population growth, the above factors — plus ecological limits — 
might make it impossible ever to universalize even current standards of 
living in Europe and America. 

The excluded are not the only, perhaps not even the principal, sufferers. 
Those who participate, but to a limited degree, feel sharper pain. Imagine the 
anguish of pious folk whose relatives languished in purgatory while those of 
more fortunate neighbors were professionally prayed into heaven. Imagine 
the torment, today, of persons whose relatives die because donors of kidneys 
are co-opted by those who can pay. The fortunate feel no pain but they may 
be hurt worst of all, for they get hooked on a game, which has no end and 
which, no one can win. The struggle of the rich against old age and death is 
a grotesque example. Much worse, if less macabre, is the status scramble, 
which, as it spreads to more products and more people, poisons the air, the 
water and the earth and sucks the very meaning out of life. A squirrel in a 
rotating cage is no more hopeless nor ludicrous than the Smiths and the 
Joneses trying to keep up with each other. 

When Veblen wrote his account of conspicuous consumption fifty years 
ago, it was part of a theory of the leisure class. Confined to this class, 
competitive consumption may have been morally offensive but remained 
socially tolerable. Extended to the masses, competitive consumption 
destroys man, his society and his environment. A limited leisure class could 
consume at the expense of the masses. Open-ended consumption can occur 
only at the cost of the consumer. But man can no more live in a squirrel cage 
than can a squirrel. Society cannot survive class conflict stoked in increasing 
heat by international warfare, universal advertising and competitive 

schooling. The world cannot absorb the waste it now receives, let alone the 
amount implied by present trends. 

One critically important aspect of the competitive consumption of 
institutionalized products is competition among nations. The early products 
of modern institutions — people as well as things and services — were 
exported from Europe to the New World and to European colonies, thus 
providing opportunities for all members of the populations of these 
European nations. Those who could not attend the new schools or buy the 
new goods could migrate to the New World, be drafted as soldiers to police 
the colonies, or take over the land of those who left. They were, therefore, 
priced out of the new markets only temporarily. The sons of these 
conquerors of new lands became, in fact, the pioneers of new levels and 
types of human consumption. The presently developing nations are not, with 
some exceptions, able to displace or conquer weaker peoples. Far from being 
able to involve their total populations in export trade, migration or conquest, 
they are instead required to compete inside their domestic markets with 
imports of foreign products, including manpower. Far more of the 
population of underdeveloped nations, compared with those, which 
developed earlier, is priced out of schools, hospitals and modern 
transportation. This part of the population is progressively alienated from the 
life of its own nation, from those who do have access to the products of 
modem institutions, foreign or indigenous. The alienated masses become, in 
turn, a demographic drag, an economic liability and, ultimately, a political 

This has failed to occur only in areas where development has progressed 
very rapidly, with correspondingly heavy imports of foreign capital and 
manpower. Israel, Puerto Rico and Taiwan — significantly, all very small — 
are the only unequivocal examples. In these areas war, migration and 
strategic location, respectively, have made it possible to engage the entire 
population in the development process, thus avoiding the social split and 
alienation of the non-participating element. These exceptions, therefore, 
prove the rule — unless it can be shown that all nations would accept similar 
relationships with the developed world, and that comparable rates of foreign 
investment could be achieved on a worldwide scale. 

Japan and the communist nations are special cases. The latter, by taking 
over the pricing mechanism, were able to force their total populations into 
their institutions. By doing so, they succeeded in avoiding the dilemmas of 

the Third World, but the procrustean character of their institutional 
frameworks and the attendant difficulties are well known. These difficulties 
resulted, in considerable part, from the wholesale adoption of pre- 
communist institutions, unadapted to the purposes they were supposed to 
serve. By fiat, these institutions involved the whole population, but not in 
ways, which resulted in high levels of motivation for socially constructive 

Japan's ability to maintain the character of her traditional social structure 
gave her a less costly means than that of the communist states. Employers 
were responsible for employment security and employees were willing to 
accept the wages offered. But Japan also shared the advantages of the 
nations, which pioneered economic development, in that she enjoyed a 
substantial political and economic empire, which permitted her to export 
goods, services and manpower. 

Most institutions continued to serve the interests of their inventors and, at 
the same time, the interests of those who were originally peripheral to them, 
only at the cost of an even more peripheral group. 

In the days when political empires were the salient institutions, the above 
statement would have excited no interest. The privileges of Roman 
citizenship were extended only as additional territories were conquered. 
Marx applied the principle to capitalist institutions. We merely generalize 
the principle to other institutions and, possibly, free it of dependence on the 
notion of deliberate exploitation. Most of those attempting to universalize 
schooling and hospital care sincerely believe that they act in the interest of 
the as yet unschooled and uncured. Earlier missionaries, conquerors and 
even traders frequently acted with the same conviction. 

What this means for development strategy is that developing nations must 
invent their own institutions. Obviously, these institutions must be able to 
use foreign components — machinery, materials, techniques, knowledge, and 
even trained manpower. 

What must be indigenous are the basic institutions which determine who 
gets what, when, and at what price. They must not only be indigenous, 
however, but also new. The church and the hacienda will obviously not do, 
since they originally opened the door to foreign institutions. The feudal 
plantations of northeast Brazil, for example, originally provided a role, 

however humble, for the inhabitants of that area. The importation of modern 
machinery reduced the demand for labor, while the importation of modern 
drugs increased in supply to the point where the masses of this region are 
now starving. A return to the hacienda would merely accelerate the current 
rate of starvation. 

That must be new and indigenous are the institutional patterns, which 
determine how major classes of needs will be satisfied; how people will be 
fed, clothed, sheltered, educated, and protected from danger, disease, 
misfortune and exploitation. Much of the technology of the modern world 
will be required, but it will have to be applied in a way, which meets the 
needs of the needy. 

This is impossible within the framework of the institutions of the 
developed world. Using the same institutions, the Third World could never 
catch up. The educationally more advanced nations must forever remain 
better educated if schools are to be the means of education. And Brazil, 
spending fifty dollars per student per year, can never have the schools, 
which in North America cost a thousand dollars. Transportation can never 
catch up unless the less-developed nation installs more efficient factories 
than the developed nation. But seldom can the less-developed nation install a 
factory even nearly as good. If this is done in a particular case, major and 
expensive components must be bought from the developed nation at a price, 
which forces this case to be an exception. The follower must, therefore, not 
only remain behind but also fall further behind as long as he adopts the 
means of development of the leader. 

The underdeveloped society requires more efficient institutions than those 
of the developed: more food, clothing, shelter, learning and protection per 
unit of input than modern agriculture, manufacture, construction, schooling, 
etc. can supply. This is possible only by departing from different premises. 
India may never be able to produce the US diet, but only the producers of 
Coca-Cola, Scotch whisky, corn-fed beef and the doctors and dentists who 
live on the consumers thereof really benefit from this diet. Better clothing, 
shelter, education and protection than the standard products of the Atlantic 
community are no more difficult to design than is a superior diet. Neither is 
there great difficulty in designing better means of producing these goods and 
services than the ones now in vogue. 

The difficulty is that we are the prisoners of our institutions rather than 
their masters. Seldom do we consciously design them and, when we do, we 
can scarcely finish the process before bowing down in reverence. So in their 
thrall are we that we tremble lest we lose them inadvertently and fall 
helplessly back into barbarism. Actually, this fear is largely confined to the 
privileged, and what we really fear is that the specific bases of our own 
privilege might get lost in the institutional shuffle. 

There is, then, a political as well as psychological aspect of the difficulty. 
There are those who benefit from present institutions and who consciously 
desire to preserve them. Among these are owners, managers, political 
leaders and other holders of power. But many with power have no conscious 
desire to monopolize it, and many over whom power is wielded give in to 
the illusion rather than the reality of power. Man cannot free himself from 
existing institutions without struggle, but neither will struggle avail unless 
preceded by imagination and invention. One of the major problems is that 
the developed nations now have an effective, if not necessarily deliberate, 
monopoly of the means of modern invention. 

Theories of political revolution are not sufficient. Such theories assume 
that if a new class gains control, the society will change in accordance with 
the values of this class as expressed in its ideology. In practice, we see that a 
spate of revolutions throughout this century has left most of the specialized 
institutions, which compose societies intact. The schools and hospitals of 
communist states are no different from those of capitalist states. Even the 
recent revolution in Cuba is attempting to extend health and education 
services to the masses largely by means of traditional school and hospital 
systems. The agricultural and industrial institutions of communist and 
capitalist states tend to converge, despite great efforts on both sides to make 
them different. According to prevailing theory, technology provides the 
force which defeats these efforts, but technology scarcely explains the case 
of the school, of the church, of the family, or of many other institutions 
which have, temporarily at least, defeated the efforts of revolutionary 
governments to change them. 

Yet there is ample evidence that institutions are by no means eternal. 
During this century monarchies have disappeared, political empires have 
broken up, churches have lost their power if not their membership, labor 
unions have risen and declined, entrepreneurs have been replaced by 
managers and technicians, major industries have disappeared and been born. 

Many of these changes are almost totally unexplained; others, especially the 
political changes, have resulted from specific plans, sometimes based on a 
general theory of political revolution. Man has shown himself capable of 
creating and destroying institutions, on a planned and unplanned basis, with 
or without theory. At the same time, he remains the prisoner of his 
institutions to an almost unimaginable degree. He can break his thralldom 
only by first understanding it thoroughly, and then by deliberately planning 
the renovation and replacement of his present institutional structures. Both 
understanding and effective action will require a general theory 
encompassing a set of specific sub-theories applicable to each major type of 

We must develop conceptual tools for the analysis of major institutions, in 
order to understand the historical process by which they were introduced, the 
sociological process by which they became acceptable, and the limitations 
which they now place on the search for alternatives (nor only limitations of 
power and resources, but also limitations upon the creative imagination). We 
must develop a language in which we can speak with precision about the 
needs of modern man — a language freed from the one which is shaped by 
those institutions men have come to accept as the suppliers of their specific 

If we continue to believe that the goals of the industrial system — the 
expansion of output, the companion increase in consumption, technological 
advance, the public images that sustain it — are coordinate with life, then all 
of our lives will be in the service of these goals. What is consistent with 
these ends we shall have or be allowed; all else will be off limits. Our wants 
will be managed in accordance with the needs of the industrial system; the 
policies of the state will be subject to similar influence; education will be 
adapted to industrial need; the disciplines required by the industrial system 
will be the conventional morality of the community. All other goals will be 
made to seem precious, unimportant or anti-social. We will be bound to the 
ends of the industrial system. The state will add its moral, and perhaps some 
of its legal, power to their enforcement. What will eventuate, on the whole, 
will be the benign servitude of the household retainer who is taught to love 
her mistress and see her interests as her own, and not the compelled 
servitude of the field hand. But it will not be freedom. 

If, on the other hand, the industrial system is only a part, and relatively a 
diminishing part, of life, there is much less occasion for concern. Aesthetic 

goals will have pride of place; those who serve than will not be subject to the 
goals of the industrial system; the industrial system itself will be subordinate 
to the claims of these dimensions of life. Intellectual preparation will be for 
its own sake and not for the better service to the industrial system. Men will 
not be entrapped by the belief that apart from the goals of the industrial 
system — apart from the production of goods and income by progressively 
more advanced technical methods — there is nothing important in life. 

John Kenneth Galbraith: The New Industrial State 


In the admitted absence of an adequate language of institutions, the 
hypothesis that institutions can be democratic may appear premature. In 
times like these, however, it may be necessary to take a chance. While all 
institutions tend to dominate, some do it less than others. Furthermore, other 
characteristics of institutions seem to be correlated with the degree to which 
these dominating tendencies are shown. The hypothesis of this chapter is 
that institutions can be identified in which the tendency toward domination 
can be restrained, and that encouragement of this kind of institution can 
foster the growth of a just and democratic society. 

Institutions are so identified with hierarchy, control, privilege and 
exclusion that the very notion of democratic institutions seems strange. 
Jeffersonian democracy was based on the relative absence of large 
institutions and came to grief with the growth of corporations and public 
bureaucracies. According to Galbraith and others, today's technology 
requires large institutions. Must we choose, then, between institutional 
domination and a return to primitive means of production? There are some 
reasons to hope for escape from this dilemma. First, there have been at least 
quasi-democratic institutions: the Greek city state, the New England town, 
the Jeffersonian republic, some of the early temples, churches and religious 
fraternities, the Chinese market networks. Second, there are some modern 
institutions, which seem to serve democratic purposes: postal systems, 
telephone exchanges and road networks, for example. If Chinese markets 
and road networks do not appear to qualify for institutional status, this is at 
least partly because of the way we have been trained to think about 

The history of institutions is a history of domination. Armies, temples, 
courts and empires established the institutional mould and, despite 
exceptions, their pattern has continued to determine man's thinking almost to 
the point of defining deviations from this pattern as non-institutional. Even 
people who admit that an organization, which is neither hierarchical nor 
exclusive, might be called an institution will argue that hierarchy and 
selective membership increase institutional efficiency. They probably do — 
for purposes of domination. Institutions, which are better at dominating their 
members, may also be better at dominating their rivals. Despite Pericles' 
eloquent claim for the superiority of Athenian democracy, Sparta won the 
war. The relatively democratic Greek city-states were later conquered by 
much less democratic Rome. The record begins to get fuzzy with England's 
triumph over Spain and with the results of the two world wars. But even 
English history credits the better discipline of her navy, obtained partly by 
means of the lash, and the record is not yet closed on the battle between 
dictatorship and democracy. Currently the loudest clamor for control comes 
from the leadership of the democracies. 

Hierarchy is, of course, related to size, both as cause and effect. Conquest 
and the subordination of one people to another was one of the earliest causes 
of hierarchy. Span of control is another factor. Size at least invites, if it does 
not require, more layers. If size is introduced as a correlate of hierarchy, the 
advantages of both in achieving domination are more apparent. But the 
admission that large hierarchically controlled institutions may be better at 
dominating others will not satisfy the adherents of hierarchy. They claim 
greater productive efficiency as well. This is a little like claiming that big 
sharks have more efficient digestive systems than little sharks because they 
succeed in eating them. Is General Motors more productive because it is 
bigger, or bigger because it is more productive? The answer is neither. It is 
bigger because it is the product of a merger; its size gives if the resources to 
dominate other companies that remain independent. It is not; in general, a 
more efficient producer, or it would not buy so many large and small 
components from smaller companies. Its size does help it to dominate the 
market, which in turn permits some economies of scale in production. 
General Motors is currently the most efficient player of the game in which it 
is engaged, just as the United States and Russia are currently the leaders in 
the world struggle for domination. No one would claim that both of these 
nations are models of efficiency in all other respects. 

Basically, General Motors allows millions to play the game, which only 
thousands could play when Yeblen wrote his The Theory of the Leisure 
Class. The thousands now play with Bentleys and Ferraris instead of 
Cadillac's and Chevrolets. If getting in on this game remains the major 
preoccupation of human beings, then General Motors must remain the model 
of institutional efficiency. But this is the same game, at the consumer level, 
as General Motors plays with other producers; the game of getting ahead of 
the Joneses. If men have other goals, then other institutional models are 

Consider American Telephone & Telegraph in contrast with General 
Motors. It is just as technical, just as profit oriented, just as large as General 
Motors, but there is a great difference in what the two companies do for and 
to their clients. The Telephone Company installs a phone and there it stays, 
whatever its age, shape or color, unless the customer, for special reasons of 
his own, decides he wants a different model. The telephone subscriber pays 
a few dollars a month, and, unless he has teenage children, forgets about his 
phone until someone calls him or he wants to call someone else. The 
telephone doesn't have to be washed, waxed or serviced, except rarely, 
requires no insurance and is not liable to theft. It is not, on the other hand, a 
source of pride or envy, of concern or comfort, of thrill or trepidation. It is 
just there, in case it is needed to call next door or half way around the world, 
imposing no constraints on what is said and not intruding itself in any way 
into the use that is made of it. Anyone who has a dime or a friend or an 
honest face or an emergency can use it, even if he can't afford or doesn't 
want a phone of his own. And the essential service the user gets, the value it 
has for him, has nothing to do with what he pays or who he is. Clearly, 
people who are better off are more conveniently served, but the telephone 
network is essentially democratic — so long as it serves individuals rather 
than computers. The emergency user actually gets more value for his money 
than the regular subscriber. 

How different is the Cadillac or Chevrolet — not so much owned as 
owning its possessor. Long before purchase, the which, with what, how 
much of this or that, dominate the family council. Subsequent payments 
dominate the family budget as much as the new acquisition controls family 
life. Triumphs and tragedies succeed each other in rapid succession as the 
new car succeeds or fails one relative test after another. Utility is usually the 
last concern. Car clubs are joined to avoid exposing the new member of the 
family to the dangers of the parking lot. Gasoline mileage is important only 

as a comparison point. Emission of lead and other air-borne poisons is not 
even considered. 

Human nature? Perhaps. But elsewhere people compete on horses, or on 
foot, or with sticks or stones, without surrendering their lives (including 
employment, taxes, education, the condition of the air, water and land on 
which they live) to the producers of these horses, sticks or stones. And yet, 
human nature is involved. The automobile, like the modern house or 
household utility, is too big a toy to be resisted. Offered even in exchange 
for submission to its supplier, it is as hard to resist as were the early cults 
with their idols, incense and temple prostitutes. Life is hard and dull and 
what else is there to relieve the tedium? 

This is one of three traditional ways of dominating men. The others are 
force and the withholding of necessities. Force is used between nations to 
obtain or maintain relative overall advantage. Withholding of necessities is 
used to assure ourselves of the menial services of the poor. The grown-up 
plaything game is used on us to keep us available for use against other 
countries and the lower class. 

It is important to recognize the various aspects of the game. International 
competition, inter-class competition and inter-personal competition are all 
related. The first requires the military institution, the second the police and 
penal institutions, and the third requires General Motors. What these games 
or processes and institutions have in common is the advantage they try to 
establish one group or individual over another. In the case of international 
and class conflict this is quite straightforward. The means by which 
individuals are placed in competition with each other are a little more 

Keeping up with, or surpassing, the Joneses is simple enough. There is a 
variation of this game, however, in which nor the Joneses but the whole 
human race becomes the reference group — when men try to play God. This 
might also be called the escape from reality game. It can be played with 
alcohol or drugs, with sex, with many kinds of variously staged fantasy and 
with grown-up playthings that fly, roar, tickle the imagination or titillate the 
senses. Keeping up with the Joneses may, in fact, be just a variant of this 
game, with the sense of superiority, or inferiority, coming from advantage 
over some rather than all. 

What all forms of advantage have in common is that they exact a price for 
the advantage as well as for the product, which provides it. When the 
advantage is permanent this price must be paid continuously. When the 
advantage is on all counts the price is total. The point is made elegantly in 
the Faust legend and the theme appears throughout human mythology. It 
provides the touchstone for distinguishing democratic from dominating 

Democratic institutions offer a service, satisfy a need, without conferring 
advantage over others or conveying the sense of dependence that institutions 
such as welfare agencies do. They take the form of networks rather than 
production systems; networks, which provide an opportunity to do 
something, rather than make and sell a finished product. Public 
communication and transportation systems are examples, as are water works 
and sewers, electricity and gas distribution systems and general markets that 
facilitate the flow of various kinds of goods. Public utilities are democratic 
institutions if they are truly public and provide something really useful. 

Everyone has access to a true public utility, either free of charge or at a fee 
everyone can afford. Access is at the option and initiative of the user, who 
may also leave the service when he wishes. Use is not obligatory. The most 
useful products such as electricity or water can be used for a variety of 
purposes. So can roads or the mails. Public utility networks show true 
economy of scale. The bigger they get and the more of the population they 
serve the more useful they are for everyone. Water and sewer systems, 
which might seem to be exceptions, are seen not to be when public health is 
considered. Superhighways, as opposed to road networks, are false public 
utilities. They are actually the private preserves of car owners, built partly at 
public expense. Utilities serve basic, universal needs. Everyone needs water, 
power, communication, transport, food, raw materials, a piece to exchange 
fabricated products and many other things. Nevertheless, basic needs are 
limited. They cannot be indefinitely multiplied. They can, therefore, be 
satisfied without exhausting all available time, labor, raw materials and 
human energy. After they have been satisfied them are things left for people 
to do, if and when they like, and them are remaining resources for doing 
them. The managers of democratic institutions can and must be largely 
responsive to the expressed desires of their clients. 

Institutions, which confer or maintain advantage over others, fit a 
description almost diametrically opposed to that above. They tend to be 

production systems rather than networks. If networks are involved they have 
the secondary purpose of distributing a particular product. Access is limited 
and access costs are frequently high. Once on it isn't easy to get off; 
participation is often either obligatory or addictive.’ The product tends to be 
specific, elaborate and all-purpose. There are important dis-economies of 
scale. At some point extension of the service to new clients becomes a 
disservice to former clients. The needs served are not basic but at least partly 
induced. Once induced, however, these needs are open-ended and can never 
be fully satisfied. Surfeit leads to excess rather than to satiation. Dominating 
institutions tend, therefore, to become total, to exhaust the life space of 
human beings and the life-sustaining capacity of the biosphere. The 
managers of dominating institutions must take and maintain the initiative. 
Clients must be seduced, manipulated or coerced. True initiative or choice 
on the part of clients tends to disrupt the maintenance requirements of 
dominating institutions. 

Most actual institutions fit these opposing prototypes only partially. Some 
fit fairly well, including certain public utilities, on the one hand, and military 
establishments, prisons and asylums, on the other. Most products, services 
and institutions fall somewhere in between. Automobiles, modern houses 
and home utilities are not merely pawns in a status game, but are also useful. 
Making long-distance calls on credit cards, on the other hand, may be pure 
one-upmanship. The management of the telephone company and its 
institutional advertising differ little from those of General Motors, which 
also produces buses as well as private cars. The buses are, however, almost 
incidental. The policies of General Motors and its role in society are 
determined by the private automobile, considered not primarily as 
transportation — as Henry Ford viewed the Model T — but as status symbol. 
With the development of the videophone, the telephone company could 
easily embark on the same route. A video-phone is not for everyone, and 
might seem to require private viewing space. This in turn could lead to 
elaboration not unlike that which has afflicted the automobile. If the choice 
were left to management, there is little doubt that AT&T would follow the 
route of General Motors. The management of a true public utility must be at 
the service and command of its clientele. The management of a dominating 
institution must manage its clientele as well as its personnel. The choice is a 
fateful one. It is, hopefully, not too late for the public to choose. 

The choice is not between high and low technology. It is not necessarily 
between private and public management, of either 'public' utilities or 'private' 

factories for necessary products. It is a choice of shopping lists, of the kinds 
and varieties of products that will be available. An unlimited market basket 
for the rich is not compatible with freedom for either the rich or poor. But 
this metaphor is inexact. The 'unlimited' market basket can be filled only 
with those products of high technology which enough people can be induced 
to buy. It can, of course, be filled with custom-made products for those who 
can afford them, but even these will be the products of an inherited artisan- 
ship, living on the past. A vigorous artisanship cannot survive in unrestricted 
competition with high technology. The choice ultimately is between two 
completely different styles of life. One is egalitarian, pluralistic and 
relatively sparse in the kinds of products and services it provides. People 
have to do things for themselves, but have time and freedom to do what they 
want. The other kind of life is based on a unified hierarchy of privilege, 
maintained by international, inter-class and inter-personal competition. The 
kinds of competition are limited and highly structured but the prizes are 
relatively glamorous, at least on the surface. 

It may seem idealistic in the extreme to believe that people who have the 
second option already in their hands will voluntarily exchange it for the first. 
Yet there are signs that this could happen. But the choice may not be entirely 
voluntary. Pollution of the environment, pressure from the underprivileged 
and the horrors of war may help to decide the issue. However, blind forces 
cannot achieve intelligent solutions of issues. Only intelligence can do that. 
This is why education is so important, and why it cannot be left to schools. 

Schools are themselves dominating institutions rather than opportunity 
networks. They develop a product, which is then sold to their clients as 
education. Concentrating on children gives them a less critical clientele, to 
which they offer the prizes that other dominating institutions produce. 
Parents want these prizes for their children, even more than for themselves, 
and can be sold a rosy future even more easily than a current illusion. Seen 
at a distance the fallacies of competition are harder to perceive clearly. 
Foreigners can have what we have if they will follow the course we have 
followed. Workers can achieve our standard of living if they will educate 
themselves to earn it. Our children can have what we couldn't have if they 
will prepare themselves to produce it. These propositions sound so plausible 
and yet are so patently false when viewed in perspective. An open-ended 
consumption race must always result in a hound who gets the rabbit, a 
bunched pack in the middle who get some of the shreds, and a train of 
stragglers. This must be the outcome in terms of nations, of classes and of 

individuals. Schools not only cloud this perspective, they actively foster the 
illusions, which contradict it. They prepare children precisely for inter- 
personal, inter-class and international competition. They produce adults who 
believe they have been educated and who, in any case, have no remaining 
resources with which to pursue their education. 

Men had better be without education than be educated by their rulers; for 
this education is but the mere breaking in of the steer to the yoke; the mere 
discipline of the hunting dog, which by dint of severity is made to forego the 
strongest impulse of his nature, and instead of devouring his prey, to hasten 
with it to the feet of his master. 

Thomas Hodgkins: 1823 


Alternatives to schools must be more economical than schools: cheap 
enough so that everyone can share in them. They must also be more 
effective so that lower costs do not imply less education. Monopoly must be 
avoided. The school system must not be replaced by another dominant 
system: alternatives must be plural. There should be competition between 
alternatives, but some of them, at least, should not involve competition 
between students, especially for lifetime prizes. One student should not learn 
at the expense of another, nor should success for one student imply failure 
for another. Alternatives to schools should not manipulate individuals but, 
on the contrary, should prepare individuals to direct and re-create 
institutions, including their governments. Education should not be separated 
from work and the rest of life, but integrated with them. Educational 
environments should be protective only to an unavoidable degree. Education 
should not, primarily, prepare for something else nor be a by-product of 
something else. It should be a self-justified activity designed to help man 
gain and maintain control of himself, his society and his environment. 

Alternatives to schools must, above all, allow everyone the opportunity to 
learn what he needs to know in order to act intelligently in his own interests. 
No educational programme can guarantee that everyone will learn what he 
needs to know, much less that if he did he would act upon it. It should be 
possible, however, to keep open the opportunity for such learning, not only 
during the youth but also throughout the lifetime of every man. One of the 
major complications arises from the almost universal predilection to feel that 

we know better than others what is in their interests. Schools, for example, 
are almost wholly concerned with vying to teach some people what other 
people want them to know. Those who make the decisions about what 
should be taught in school pretend to know and to act in the interest of the 
learners. It should be clear by now that either they do not know or that, if 
they do, they act in contradiction to their knowledge. 

What man's true interests are and what he needs to know to pursue them 
are the starting points not only of educational philosophy but also of any 
general philosophical basis for social policy. Defining freedom, in its 
clearest if not its most complete sense, as freedom from rather than freedom 
for, leads to a definition of basic values and factual propositions in largely 
negative terms. The question becomes, as Paul Goodman says, not what 
shall we do but what will we tolerate. Philosophies which state in positive 
terms what is and what should be seen to lead to the constraint of one human 
being by another, to the imposition of enlightenment upon the heathen. A 
philosophy based on the right of maximum freedom from human constraint 
begins by denying the right of any man to impose either truth or virtue upon 

The implications of such a philosophy of freedom are very far-reaching. 
They include, for example, denial of the right to monopolize anything which 
other men need, since such monopoly is and always has been used to violate 
their freedom. Needs, moreover, cannot be restrictively defined as those 
things immediately needed to sustain life. Denial of information, for 
example, leads to denial of fresh air, pure water and nutritious food. 
Information denial is being used in the modern world — generally, 
consistently and systematically — to keep people from knowing, and thereby 
from getting what they need, of even such elementary things as air, water 
and food. 

A philosophy of freedom need not specify in advance which positive 
things must be done in order to avoid the constraint of one man by another. 

It can reserve the application of the test of freedom to specific situations. 

The world of schools conceives the problem of education as one of 
inducing students to learn what they are supposed to know. From this point 
of view, it seems nonsensical to think of people as being blocked from 
knowing and learning. Yet clearly they are. Most of the people of the world 
sweat their lives out on land which belongs to others, constantly in debt to 

their landlords with no control over the prices of what they buy or sell, 
helpless in their misery and kept helpless not only by denial of information 
and opportunity to learn but by deliberate distortion of the facts of their 
lives. Witch doctors, priests, politicians and purveyors of profitable 
nostrums vie with each other to keep these people sunk in their ignorance 
and unaware of their true condition. They are aided in these attempts by the 
physical misery in which their victims are forced to live, misery so great and 
so hopeless that it must somehow be justified, somehow disguised, in order 
to make it bearable. 

Education for these people does not consist primarily in learning to read, 
but in learning to understand and to do something about their miserable 
situation. This may involve learning to read but it must obviously include 
other things, without which the ability to read would not be of any real 
value. Suppose that a few children in such an environment do learn to read 
and thus escape. This does nothing to help those who stay behind to breed 
more children. 

Much of what people in this situation need to know, in order to basically 
improve their lot, is actively withheld or hidden from them, even though the 
resources for learning to read may be offered. Paulo Freire found in working 
with Brazilian peasants that they immediately learned to read those words, 
which helped them to discover their true-life situation. Unearthing this 
vocabulary requires an insight into the lives of these peasants, which 
penetrates the secrets, misinformation and mystification with which their 
landlords, priests and political leaders surround than. Paulo Freire's clients 
no sooner learnt to read than they organized peasant leagues through which 
they tried to bargain with their employers. Although they were scrupulously 
careful to observe the law and the customs of the region, their employers, 
government authorities and the Church turned upon them in unison. Their 
leaders were fired and jailed, while the Church denied its sacraments to 
members of the league until Protestant missionaries began to make converts 
among them. 

This sounds like an exaggerated case, but Paulo Freire's Brazilian clients 
are representative, in their essential features, of over half the people of the 
earth. Freire himself had to flee Brazil when the present military government 
took over. Although invited to Chile by the governing Christian Democratic 
Party of that country, he was not allowed to work freely. After a year at 

Harvard he is now with the World Council of Churches in Geneva, safely 
and unhappily insulated from the poor and uneducated masses of the world. 

This is easy to understand, given the nature of society and the probable 
consequences of educating its impoverished majority. Withholding 
education from these masses may still appear to be a special case, justified 
by the inability of society to cope with the impact of education on such a 
massive scale. But this is not a special case. We treat our own children in the 
same way and we ourselves are so treated by our governments, public 
bureaucracies and privately owned corporations. 

We take as great pains to hide the facts of life from our children, as do the 
Brazilian landlords to hide them from their peasants. Like them, we not only 
hide and distort facts but also invoke the assistance of great institutions and 
elaborate mythologies. Facts of life are not confined to sex: about this we are 
becoming less inhibited even with children. But relative incomes of families 
on the block, the neighborhood power structure, why father didn't get his 
promotion or mother her chairmanship, why Jimmy is smoking pot or Susie 
is having an out of town vacation: these things which children perversely 
want to know are obviously not for them. Neither is ballet at the expense of 
reading, karate in place of math's, or the anatomy of flies as a substitute for 
botany out of a book. Schools are obviously as much designed to keep 
children from learning what really intrigues them as to teach them what they 
ought to know. As a result, children learn to read and do not read, learn their 
numbers and hate mathematics, shut themselves off in class-rooms and do 
their learning in cloakrooms, hangouts and on the road. The exceptions are 
those who are allowed to learn to read when and what they wish, and to do 
likewise with mathematics, science, music, etc. 

We ourselves are treated no better than our children. Attempts to get the 
contents of cans and boxes clearly labeled are treated as attacks on private 
enterprise. Any real probing of foreign policy is labeled subversive, while 
the basic facts are hidden behind the screen of national security. The 
enemies of every military power in the world know more about its military 
capacities and intentions than is available to the makers of its own laws. 
Spies, bellhops, charwomen, valets and ladies' maids are the privileged 
exceptions to the conspiracy of secrecy in which we live. 

There are, of course, the best of reasons for all the secrecy and 
mystification. Children might be permanently scarred by premature exposure 

to death, suffering, sex or the sordid facts of economic and political life. 
Mechanics might be embarrassed if car owners were given detailed 
descriptions of their own motorcars. A little knowledge is dangerous, not 
only for laymen, but for their donors, lawyers and accountants as well. If 
customers were allowed to know what they were buying, then competitors 
could also find it out. If national security barriers were lowered, the enemy 
would learn even more at lower cost. These reasons range from valid to 
ludicrous but even the valid ones are valid only in the context of the society 
in which we live. In this society, Paulo Freire is a threat and so is the free 
education of our children and of ourselves. At present, this education is not 
free. People are systematically prevented from learning those things, which 
are most important for them to know. They are deliberately misled by 
elaborate distortions of facts and by the propagation of religious, political 
and economic mythologies which make it extraordinarily difficult to get a 
clear glimpse of relevant truth. Protestants see clearly through the Catholic 
smoke screen. Capitalists have no difficulty in seeing how the communists 
brainwash their victims. Englishmen and Frenchmen see through each 
other's Common Market machinations without the slightest trouble. Only our 
own camouflage confuses us. 

It might be said in rebuttal that every society must have its secrets, its 
mythologies, and its propaganda. Some information will always be off limits 
for children and for adults. We have a choice of what will be hidden and 
obscured, but not of whether anything will be. This may be true, but it is not 
true by definition. Only where there are major differences of interim and 
where one group has the power to distort reality does it seem inevitable that 
this will occur. All societies in recorded history have been of this kind. All 
have had ruling classes, which exploited other members of their own 
populations and fought with other elites for the privilege of exploitation. 
Societies need not be organized in this way. In fact most current societies 
claim that they are not. The ideal of a non-exploiting, mutual-interest society 
has long been proclaimed and many people believe that such a society is 
possible. If it is, then there should be no need for major systems of secrecy 
not for mythologies whose major purpose is to distort the truth. In such a 
society, education for freedom should be possible. It may also be that such a 
society can be created only by men who have been educated for freedom, by 
whatever means. This possibility and hope justifies the proclamation of the 
ideal of education for freedom, even in a society in which it does not truly 
fit. The hope stems from the fact that our society does proclaim the ideals of 
justice and freedom. In the name of these ideals it is possible to call for free 

education, realizing that it can be fully achieved only as greater social justice 
is also achieved, and that each can and must be instrumental in the 
achievement of the other. 

Specific barriers to information are not as important as mythologies and 
the institutions through which these are propagated. In the case of tribal 
societies, these mythologies take the form of what we generally and 
somewhat inaccurately label witchcraft. Various systems of witchcraft 
contain much valid knowledge and significant powers to cure the sick, solve 
social problems and give meaning to the lives of people. They also, 
however, serve to hide the power structures of their respective societies, 
disguise the dominant means of exploitation, and make people feel that the 
evils they suffer are inevitable and, sometimes, even for their own good. 

The major traditional religions, with all of their differences from 
witchcraft and from each other, serve the same social purposes both positive 
and negative. Catholicism as it affects the peasant populations of Latin 
America illustrates the point very aptly because, in many regions, it is 
Catholicism in name only. Actually it is often merely an overlay of popular 
saint culture upon a base of indigenous witchcraft, the content of the 
Catholic and witchcraft elements of the amalgams varying from one region 
to another. The social functions performed by these amalgams are the same, 
however, with no discernible differences in efficacy. They all effect cures, 
control anti-social impulses, or re-establish order when the controls fail, and 
provide a structure of meaning for celebration of birth, death, marriage and 
other critical events in the lives of individuals. Most important of all, from a 
social point of view, they legitimize ownership of the land by the rich, 
condone and justify the privileges enjoyed by the elites at the expense of the 
poor, exalt the charitable acts of the elite and their symbolic roles in 
religious, political, economic and familial affairs. They provide the peasants 
with a set of after-life rewards to console them for their misery in the present 
life, represent their current suffering as the will of God and acquiescence in 
these sufferings as the height of virtue. 

There are, of course, many Catholic priests in Latin America whose 
behavior contradicts every line of the above description, who castigate the 
rich and assist, arouse and lead the peasants in their search for justice. These 
priests are sometimes killed, more often locked up as mad, and still more 
often assigned to innocuous duties or dismissed. Occasionally their work is 
welcomed and supported by bishops who agree with them. 

When Latin American peasants move to the cities and become urban 
workers they are converted in large numbers to a variety of fundamentalist 
Protestant sects. Even Catholic employers frequently prefer these converts as 
workers and hire them selectively. They are likely to be more sober, faithful 
to their wives and families, earnest about their work, about keeping their 
children in school, acquiring possessions and getting ahead in the world. 
Their behavior supports perfectly Weber's hypothesis on the relationship 
between Protestantism and industrialization. The personally permissive 
nominal Catholicism — so perfectly adjusted to rural Latin America and so 
sharply in contrast with its counterparts in rural Ireland and northern Spain — 
is poorly suited to Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and the lesser 
industrial centers of Latin America. So is the more sophisticated urban 
Catholicism of Latin American cities with its emphasis on the rights of 
labor, the obligations of the employer and, in general, on social justice in the 
modern industrial world. The teachings of some of the older Protestant seers 
are no more in the interests of urban employees and these seers make fewer 
converts among the workers. 

It may seem odd that workers join the seers whose teachings are in their 
employers' interest rather than their own. This is, first of all, because 
employers select as workers the members of these sects. It is, secondly, 
because relatively powerless workers psychologically need a religion which 
will reconcile the contradictions between their employers' interests and their 

In Europe, the United States, Japan and the former British dominions, 
religion no longer plays the major role in adjusting men to their societies. 
This role falls to mythologies of science, professionalism, consumption, the 
state, the corporation, and the welfare agency and, above all, the school. The 
mass media and the advertising industry are, of course, important but they 
are the carriers and arrangers of the various myths and do not provide their 

Progress toward freedom occurs in cycles. At some point in the cycle, part 
of the myth is discredited. Peasants move to the city, a scandal occurs, some 
defector lifts the veil, a penetrating analysis is made. People glimpse the 
truth, make demands, win concessions, are a little better off and not so much 
in need of hiding reality from themselves. The stage is set for a new lifting 
of the veil and a new cycle. Men do not arrive suddenly at total truth nor at 

total justice. Myth is replaced by myth, institution-by-institution, injustice- 
by-injustice, but when things go well, each myth is less embracing, each 
institution more transient, and each injustice more bearable and less in need 
of being mythologized. 

This does not mean that change must come gradually or slowly. When 
major myths and institutions are replaced change may be swift and radical — 
radical enough to be called revolution, regardless of the degree of violence 
involved. Violence is not the proper mark of revolution, nor are dramatic 
changes in the political facade. Too often these occur accompanied by no 
significant changes at all in myths or institutions, or in relationships between 
oppressors and oppressed. Significant change occurs when people stop 
believing in what may once have been true, but has now become false; when 
they withdraw support from institutions which may once have served them 
but no longer do; when they refuse to submit to what may once have been 
fair terms but which are no longer. Such changes, when they occur, are a 
product of true education. The problem is not one of motivating people to 
learn what others want them to learn. It is rather to provide the resources, 
which enable them to, learn what they want and need to know. 

At the treaty of Lancaster, in Pennsylvania, anno 1744, between the 
Government of Virginia and the Six Nations, the commissioners from 
Virginia acquainted the Indians by a speech, that there was at Williamsburg 
a college with fund for educating Indian youth; and that if the chiefs of the 
Six Nations would send down half a dozen of their sons to that college, the 
government would take care that they be well provided for, and instructed in 
all the learning of the white people. 

The Indians' spokesman replied: 

'We know that you highly esteem the kind of learning taught in those 
colleges, and that the maintenance of our young men, while with you, would 
be very expensive to you. We are convinced, therefore, that you mean to do 
us good by your proposal and we thank you heartily. 

'But you, who are wise, must know that different nations have different 
conceptions of things; and you will not therefore take it amiss, if our ideas of 
this kind of education happen not to be the same with yours. We have had 
some experience of it; several of our young people were formerly brought up 
at the colleges of the northern provinces; they were instructed in all your 

sciences; but, when they came back to us, they were bad runners, ignorant of 
every means of living in the woods, unable to bear either cold or hunger, 
knew neither how to build a cabin, take a deer, nor kill an enemy, spoke our 
language imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for hunters, warriors, nor 
counselors; they were totally good for nothing. 

'We are however not the less obligated by your kind offer, though we 
decline accepting it, and to show our grateful sense of it, if the gentlemen of 
Virginia will send us a dozen of their sons, we will take care of their 
education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them.' 

Benjamin Franklin: Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America 

The title of this chapter has a double meaning. It refers both to the 
objectives of education and to the resources required to pursue these 
objectives. They are discussed together because, as will be seen, they are 
intimately interrelated and cannot properly be separated. Education should 
lead to a world based on freedom and justice; where freedom means a 
minimum of constraint by others, and justice means a distribution of wealth, 
power and other values consistent with this kind of freedom. 

Men in society necessarily constrain each other. The problem is one of 
defining the boundary between one man's fist and the other's nose. Where 
fists and noses are literally in question, this is easy, and it is not much harder 
in other matters, so long as men are assumed to be enough alike to validate 
the golden rule. If we assume that all men value health, wealth, skill, power, 
respect and affection, then justice requires that no man should have so much 
of any of these as to deprive another of his share. This does not mean that all 
shares must be equal. Monogamy would not have to be restrictively defined. 
The test could be whether anyone is deprived of a mate by the existence of a 
Mormon or Tibetan household. There can also be other Fade-offs. A true 
urbanite might be glad to make his share of acreage for a Manhattan 
apartment. Obviously, no one else — his children for example — should be 
bound by such a trade. 

The details of a just, free world must be based upon the freely given and 
mutual consent of relative equals, of persons who, as far as possible, have 
equal knowledge and equal understanding of what their consent implies. 

Educational objectives must be defined, not only in terms of how to maintain 
such a world, but in terms of how to attain it and keep it growing. Education 
must be a major instrument in the development of a just world. The basic 
objective of education must be an understanding of the world we live in and 
the world we hope for, understanding which can lead to effective action. 

Such action is assumed to be voluntary and cooperative, but unavoidable 
conflict is not ruled out. The education in question must prepare individuals 
to act with others as well as by themselves. But before a man can engage in 
intelligent collective action he must understand his own situation, not as a 
social atom, but as member of a family and other groups. 

People understand the world by means of language. Not exclusively but in 
the main, especially if language is broadly defined, as Suzanne Langer 
defines it, to include music, dancing, poetry and other affective modes of 
communication. But language is used, as we have seen, to obscure and to 
distort reality as well as to render it lucid. People must have the opportunity 
to learn to use language critically — in such a way as to reflect upon the 
thing discussed and also upon the language in which it is discussed. It is not 
so important how much or how many languages are learned, as it is to learn 
not to be naive. At the same time, it is not enough to be shrewd about only a 
few things, as the peasant or the beggar often is. A minimum breadth of 
language still is necessary in order to protect one's interest in the world; to 
understand one’s situation well enough to act upon it significantly. This is 
impossible without some knowledge of physical science, politics, economics 
and psychology. 

As these disciplines are talked about today it would, obviously, be 
impossible for everyone to learn their languages. But this is because these 
languages have become so esoteric that those who go to the trouble of 
learning them can then use them to confuse and exploit others. Almost 
everyone knows what aspirin is except when doctors prescribe if as 
acetylsalicylic acid. Everyone knows what damage is except when lawyers 
call it a ton. Many specialists, of course, are free of any intention to confuse 
or exploit. Furthermore, specialized languages are clearly necessary for the 
creation of new knowledge. Specialists cannot forget, however, that they 
practice their specialty at the sufferance of the rest of society and that if they 
fail to maintain effective communication, they open society to exploitation — 
directly or indirectly — by practitioners of their specialty. New knowledge 
may benefit or injure mankind depending on how it is used. The creators of 
new knowledge are as obliged, therefore, to create a language in which new 

knowledge can be generally communicated as to create one in which new 
knowledge can be developed. A famous scientist said recently that any 
scientific concept can be explained to anyone by someone who himself 
understands it concretely. This does not mean, however, the kind of 
simplifying textbook explanations that characterize today's schools. The 
outlines of the great classics, best sellers in every university bookstore, 
illustrate the point. If books written to divert voluntary readers had never 
been made classics, from which curricula were then constructed, there would 
be no need for outlines. The peasants of old Russia would have understood 
and preferred Dostoyevsky in the original. 

But the problem cannot be fully understood at this level. It is necessary to 
go back to the peasant culture in which Paulo Freire worked, and even 
beyond this to the origins of this culture. Freire calls the rural culture of 
Latin America a Culture of Silence. By this he means that the rural masses, 
having been deprived of any real voice in the matters, which concern them 
most, have forgotten how to speak or even to think about these matters 
except in terms of the rationalizing mythologies supplied by their superiors. 
In Freire's terms they have lost the 'word'. The term is used here as it is in 
the first verse of the Gospel according to St John: 'In the beginning was the 
word and the word was with God and the word was God.' To understand 
how the word might be lost to a whole class of men, it is necessary only to 
remember the origins of this class in the twin institutions of slavery and 
serfdom. Slaves and serfs were allowed to sing, to chant, to chatter and to 
gossip — and in ancient times much more — but they were not allowed to say 
anything serious about their own condition or about the society which kept 
them in this condition. For generations the children of this class were raised 
without reference to such matters, and even with conscious repression by 
parents of references that innocent children might make. It is easy to see 
how the word was lost to slaves and serfs and their successors. 

The essentials of the Culture of Silence are reflected in the Culture of 
Childhood. Children, too, are allowed to sing and chatter, but not to know or 
talk about grown-up things. Theirs too is a culture of silence but, at the 
higher social levels, more like that of the Greek slaves in Roman times who 
were allowed to learn everything except the arts of war and politics and who 
might even, after years of proof of loyalty, be freed. 

Similarities between children, slaves and peasants have often been noted 
and have served even as the basis for ethnic myths, explaining the supposed 

inferiority of lower classes and oppressed races in terms of their childlike 
character, thus justifying the maintenance of domination over them. The 
mythic character of such beliefs is completely exposed by anthropologists, 
such as Levi-Strauss, who show that the intellectual systems and 
accomplishments of so-called primitives are as complex as those of 
scientifically and technically advanced populations. The kinship, plant and 
animal classification systems, which are learned in these cultures, are as 
difficult to learn as any of our scientific and technical codes. For us they 
would be much harder. 

People learn what they need and are allowed to learn. What they need is a 
function of the culture they live in and of their role within it. What they are 
allowed to learn is also a function of this culture. But cultures contain ideals, 
and these as well as the institutions, which pervert them, help to determine 
what needs to be and may be learned. 

In a free, just world, or in progress toward one, all people need to know 
how the universal values of their society are created and distributed and how 
the methods of creation and distribution are governed, i.e. how the society is 
governed. Laswell and Kaplan in their book Power and Society list such 
universal values as well being, wealth, power and respect, and give 
examples of the processes by which each value is converted into others. 
Power, for example, may be based upon respect or obtained through bribery. 
Wealth may be obtained through productivity or extorted from others by 
threats to their well-being. Not everyone needs to know all of the techniques 
of how each value is created and exchanged but they do need to know 
enough to prevent any group of specialists from attaining a dominant role — 
or to reduce this role if it has already been attained. Basic educational policy 
needs to be concerned with providing universal access to only this much 
learning, and with preventing obstacles to any more specialized learning 
which individuals might choose. To put this more concretely: basic 
educational policy must guarantee not only freedom of access but an 
adequate supply of the resources required for everyone to learn how society 
really works. Provision of resources for more specialized learning can be left 
to specialized groups and agencies of the society, as long as access to these 
resources is not restricted. 

The universal educational objectives stated above imply both much more 
and much less learning than occurs today, either in schools or in the normal 
process of growing up outside them. Very few people today learn anything 

about international finance, practical politics or military strategy, or about 
who marries whom for what reasons. Few people learn much about the foods 
and poisons they eat, drink or breathe, about why they feel as they do or why 
other people treat them as they do. 

At the same time, people all over the world are learning the details of 
elaborate kinship networks, plant classification systems, agricultural 
folklore, histories and geographies, categories of arts no longer practiced, 
age-old myths and superstitions and a host of other things. Some of these 
things may need to continue to be learned, but only by particular individuals 
or groups. How society works needs to be learned by every responsible 
member of a free, just world. As the world changes, the necessary content of 
universal education will also change. The present formulation is merely 
illustrative, but will serve to indicate the kinds of information, which must 
be disclosed, and the kinds of learning resources, which must be provided. 

The secular significance of the great religious teachers of the past can be 
seen in the important role of disclosure in true education. Apart from the 
transcendental content of their teaching, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, 

Gautama, Lao Tse, to mention only a few of the most famous, were able to 
disclose the significant truths of their time to millions of people. Each of 
their teachings was, of course, subsequently used to obscure the very 
enlightenment they brought, to justify what they denounced, and to convict 
those whom they justified. Nevertheless, the truths they revealed could never 
again be totally hidden. Today's injustice stands convicted by their teachings 
and today's ideals are built upon them. Their teachings were not esoteric. 
Many of their contemporaries must have seen what they saw, felt what they 
felt, but lacked the security to trust their judgment, the courage to speak their 
mind, or the charisma to attract disciples. 

In our time, the great teachers have spoken in secular terms. Marx, Freud, 
Darwin, to again name only the most famous, have revealed to millions, 
truths that many others sensed but could not equally well express. Thanks in 
part to the great teachers of the past; today's significant truths lie closer to 
the surface. They are there for everyone to see. The veneer, which covers 
them, is frequently transparent; the hypocrisy with which they are disguised 
is often so blatant as to be insulting. Today, no genius is required to 
discover, reveal and proclaim the truths, which could set men free. But it 
still takes doing. This is the role of the true teacher, the one educational 
resource that will always be in short supply. 

Aside from people who discover truth, all educational resources are 
potentially plentiful. Schools make them scarce and costly, but freed from 
the perverse packaging which schools impose; there are enough resources to 
provide lifetime education for everyone. 

Schooling has become the most costly of human enterprises. More people 
are enrolled in school than are employed in agriculture. More man-hours are 
spent in the classroom than in the fields. If the time of students is valued at 
its market potential, more money is tied up in schooling than in agriculture, 
industry or warfare. Schools are so costly because they separate what should 
be combined and combine what should be kept separate. Schools separate 
learning from work and play, parcel the world into subject matters and 
divide learners into teachers and students. They then package subject matters 
into curricula; package baby-sitting, skill modeling, administration, 
pedagogy, research and intellectual leadership into teaching; and package 
fraternities, athletics, professional training and intellectual life into colleges 
and universities. 

Separation of learning from other activities is the most serious error. 
Learning occurs naturally at work and at play, but must be artificially 
stimulated when separated from them. Learning occurs naturally in the 
course of encountering real-world problems, but when these are subdivided 
into mathematics, economics, accounting and business practice they become 
so artificial that for most people learning can be induced only at great cost. 
Learning occurs naturally in the course of true teaching, but only with great 
difficulty in the role of classroom student or classroom teacher. 

Every thing and every person in the world is a learning resource. All are 
needed but all are plentiful, in relation to the need for them, unless 
deliberately made scarce. Educationally, things are of two kinds: ordinary 
things to which only occasional access must be provided and special things 
to which regular access is required. The special things may be records such 
as books, tapes, discs, films, papers, punch cards, and computer memories. 
Other types of special things are instruments for producing or interpreting 
records such as pencils, typewriters, presses, tape recorders or computers; 
toys and equipment for games; natural elementary things such as rocks, sand 
and water. People can also be classified as ordinary or special educational 
resources but here the need for access is just the opposite as in the case of 
things. Ordinary people are commonly needed and require regular access 

while only occasional access is required to the special people. These special 
people are the ones we call educators, who have a very different role in the 
organization of educational resources we shall propose than they now have 
in the service of schools. 

For the purpose of organizing access, educational resources are 
conveniently grouped into special and general things, and into three types of 
people: skill models, peers and educators. These classes of resources involve 
either different problems of access or else need to be kept distinct in order to 
avoid the packaging and artificial shortages which now make schooling so 

An expedient was therefore offered, that since words are only names for 
Things, it would be more convenient for all Men to carry about them, such 
Things as were necessary to express the particular Business they are to 
discourse on. And this Invention would certainly have taken Place, to the 
great Ease as well as Health of the Subject, if the Women in Conjunction 
with the Vulgar and Illiterate had not threatened to raise a Rebellion, unless 
they might be allowed the Liberty to speak with their Tongues, after the 
Manner of their Forefathers: Such constant irreconcilable Enemies to 
Science are the common People. 

However, many of the most Learned and Wise adhere to the new Scheme 
of expressing themselves by Things; which hath only this Inconvenience 
attending it; that if a Man's Business be very great, and of various Kinds, he 
must be obliged in Proportion to carry a greater Bundle of Things upon his 
Back, unless he can afford one or two strong Servants to attend him. I have 
often beheld two of those Sages almost sinking under the Weight of their 
Packs, like Pedlars among us; who when they met in the Streets would lay 
down their Loads, open their Sacks, and hold Conversation for an Hour 
together; then put up their Implements, help each other to resume their 
Burdens, and take their Leave. 

Jonathan Swift: Gulliver's Travels 


The prior division of things into those, which have general and those, 
which have special educational significance can be carried further. Those, 
which have special educational value, are again of two kinds: those, which 

are, symbol systems of some kind, and those, which produce, translate, 
transmit or receive messages. These are things, which serve as means of 
communicating not merely a specific message but large classes of messages. 
All objects can serve as means of communication but, as Swift pointed out 
in his 'Voyage to Laputa', some serve it better than others. Among those, 
which serve it best are records, objects especially convenient for the storage 
of symbols. Records are so relatively easy and cheap to store and keep that 
they can be organized for quick access enormously more efficiently than the 
things they represent. This is the virtue of human brains, but also of 
computers, libraries, microfilm stores and the like. Large collections of 
records, such as central libraries or national archives, are like collective 
memories serving societies as brains serve individuals. Further organization 
of such record collections, by means of computers, is certain to increase 
their utility greatly and to warrant the comparison with human brains. 
Effective access to records is sure to become even more necessary to the 
educated man than it is today. Even today, records are very significant 
extensions of educated brains. Much that could be kept in human memory is 
deliberately passed on to these supplementary memory systems. 

One of the things, which make almost unlimited universal education so 
potentially cheap, is the great economy with which record systems of many 
types can now be organized for very rapid access, by almost unlimited 
numbers of people. Anyone who learns to use these systems, for which only 
elementary skills are needed — at least for certain levels of use — is then 
capable of carrying on his own education to almost any degree. This has 
always been true for people who knew how to read and to find books. The 
new development will simply make it easier. It may be worth noting that this 
too has always been true for anyone who knew how to observe and to find 
information. Reading merely made things easier, just as computers now do. 
They make things so much easier, however, that education can now become 

The quality of this education will depend only upon the quality and 
completeness of the records, which are available to the public. Information 
upon which corporate and national advantage presumably depends will not 
be available. Neither will other information deemed vital by some groups for 
the maintenance of their advantage over others. These are problems which 
organization alone cannot solve. 

Libraries are partial models for the organization of records and similar 
objects. Only an extension of the library system is necessary to enable these 
kinds of educational objects to be located and placed at the disposal of 
learners. But the scope of the extension required is very great. Libraries do 
not yet take full advantage of the ease and economy with which most records 
can now be reproduced. They are, of course, seriously handicapped by 
property rights and consequent restrictions on reproduction. These 
restrictions and the novelty of cheap reproduction methods account for the 
carry-over of the custodial tradition, which opens libraries to the charge of 
being more concerned with their records than with their clients. This 
tradition will have to be overcome, as will the tradition of serving an elite 
rather than the general public. The reading public is an elite and, because 
libraries were founded on books, an elite as well as a custodial tradition has 
limited their educational scope. It might not even be a good idea to use the 
name library in the network of special educational objects, which must 
become one of the major institutional alternatives to schools. 

In addition to vastly expanded directories and repositories of all kinds of 
records, we need similar means of access to other kinds of educational 
objects, which have special value in the transmission of information. First 
among these are the instruments, which play records, produce them or 
transmit their message. Books and papers are among the few records, which 
do not require special decoders, although even with books, microfilm 
viewers are beginning to play a significant role. In the production of books 
and papers, however, instruments are indispensable. Pencils at least, much 
better typewriters; mimeograph machines or presses are necessary to 
produce written records. Universal access to these instruments is just as 
important as the ability to read what has been written. This is why freedom 
of the press was included in the American Bill of Rights. Its original purpose 
was to protect the rights of common people like Thomas Paine to make his 
ideas public; only later was it converted into protection of the freedom of the 
commercial press. 

Most records other than books require instruments for their production and 
also for their use. Musical instruments and microphones may be needed to 
produce and record sound and record players to hear it. Typewriters and 
computers are needed for the production and reading of punch cards, tapes, 
disc packs and other types of computer records. Cameras and projectors are 
another pair of basic instruments, which can be combined with telescopes; 
microscopes, stethoscopes and many other devices, and can use television or 

telephone lines as transmitting devices. Then there are simpler kinds of 
materials for producing records such as paint and brushes, knives and 
chisels, knitting needles and string, a great variety of common tools and 
materials of the various practical and fine arts. Libraries have begun to stock 
some of these instruments and materials but usually only for privileged 
clients. They are much more commonly available for decoding than for the 
production of records and much more fully developed in the traditional 
media, related to books and written records, than in the newer 
communications techniques or in the huge variety of means of 
communication represented in the practical arts. 

Message coding and decoding devices shade off into general types of 
instruments or machines, which transform one kind of energy into another. 
Musical instruments and printing presses, for example, are not so strictly 
communications devices as tape recorders or typewriters. All general types 
of energy transformers have special educational value, not only because of 
their general usefulness in facilitating communication but also because they 
reveal some important features of the world; clocks, for example, reveal the 
relationship between motion and time, motors between motion and 
electricity, telescopes between distance and size. Names for relationships of 
this kind — but not confined to the world of physical science — make up the 
basic vocabulary of educated men. 

Tools, instruments and machines are much less available now to most of 
the people of technological societies than they used to be. Specialized large- 
scale production removes them from the common scene. There are still 
artisans and mechanics in South America, Asia and Africa, but in Europe 
and North America they are disappearing rapidly. Not only children but also 
neighbors, friends, clients and passers-by are deprived of access to first-hand 
demonstrations, opportunities to experiment with tools and to see the insides 
of the gadgets which now come out of factories encased in shiny shells. 
Worse than this, many modern devices can no longer be taken apart without 
destroying them. They are not made to be repaired but to be replaced. As a 
result, modem man is becoming richer in devices and poorer in his 
understanding of them. The multiplication of product shells and factory 
walls, behind which tools, instruments and machines are hidden, has the 
same effect, educationally, as the hiding of records behind the veils of 
national security and corporate privilege. The result is to deny people the 
information they need to act intelligently in their own interests. The reasons 
behind all this secrecy are also the same, even though the conscious motives 

may be different. Manufacturers guard their equipment and their products 
from the eyes of their customers, perhaps not consciously to keep them 
ignorant, but certainly in order to maintain an advantage in which ignorance 
is a critical factor. 

Secrecy is by no means confined to capitalist countries. Professionals, 
managers and specialized workers guard their privileges as jealously as 
owners. The techniques of modem production play into their hands equally 
well and are, indeed, partly responsible quite apart from any conscious 
motivation. Large-scale production has, in and of itself, profoundly anti- 
educational implications, as Jane Jacobs points out in her The Economy of 

So long as large-scale production continues to monopolize tools, 
instruments, machines and other products which have special educational 
value, it will be necessary to include such products in educational directories 
and to arrange for general access to them. Vocational schools are one 
attempt to supply this access but they are far more expensive and much less 
educational than junkyards. Vocational schools can never serve the needs of 
the entire population while junkyards could, although today junkyards are in 
some respects more difficult of access. 

Toys and games are a special class of objects with great potential for 
offsetting the educational disadvantages of a technological society. They can 
simulate many real objects and situations, sometimes to advantage and 
sometimes not. Traffic rules in the classroom, for example, may be a 
dangerously safe simulation of a truly dangerous situation. But simple toys 
and games, made easily and widely accessible at the option of individuals, 
could provide skill practice and intellectual insights with an effectiveness 
and economy not easy to match. Games have three great educational assets. 
First, they are a pleasant way of learning many skills, the practice of which 
might otherwise be onerous. Second, they provide a means of organizing 
activities among peers, which make minimum demands upon leadership or 
authority. Finally, they are paradigms of intellectual systems, based on 
elements, operations and rules just as mathematical systems and other 
intellectual models are. People familiar with games can easily be introduced 
to a basic understanding of the most important models of science and 
mathematics. Games are, of course, open to the objection of stressing 
scientific and technological outlooks over those of nature and the 
humanities. Games are also open to the objection of pitting persons against 

each other and of producing losers and winners. It is doubtful, however, 
whether competition can or should be organized out of life. Games can be so 
organized as to equalize advantages and, thus, the pleasures of winning. 
While everyone still knows who is best, it is usually rather difficult for one 
person to be best at everything. 

The problems of organizing access to toys and games fall largely into the 
ambit of libraries. Physical sports constitute an important exception, with 
problems similar to those involved where access to nature and natural things 
are involved. 

Nature is not only becoming more distant, it is also being increasingly 
denatured, by exploitation and pollution on the one hand, and by attempts to 
sterilize adventures on the other. The exploitation and pollution of the 
natural environment have been well publicized and in terms of man's 
continued enjoyment of nature are of great importance. Educationally, 
however, cleaning up the environment may be worse than getting it dirty. 
The clean-up occurs at two levels. Protecting children from dirt, animals, 
birth, sickness, death and other natural things distorts their sense of what is 
real and natural. For the typical city child, nature is man-made like 
everything else. Even as an adult, he has decreasing opportunities to 
discover the truth. Jet planes and highways keep nature at a distance and 
even after he gets there, modern man's dude-ranch and stage-managed safari 
will do little to penetrate his urban aplomb. Only a few rivers, forests and 
mountain ranges remain unspoiled and these are being invaded. Nature can 
no longer be left to herself but has to be protected by man against man. 
Educational access complicates the problem of conservation, but education 
should be the main function of nature in the life of man. If proper boundaries 
are established between man and nature, and if his weapons are removed 
before he enters her, nature can continue to be man's mentor. For many 
people, a new guide will have to be written and new kinds of encounters 
devised. It is surprising and hopeful, however, to see what small enclaves of 
nature, truly protected, turn out to be viable. 

Access to records, tools, machines, games, natural preserves and other 
extraordinarily useful educational objects is relatively easy to organize. 
Logical classifications already exist. Directories can easily be developed; 
storage in libraries and arrangements for other kinds of access can be made 
without major difficulty. But this leaves the whole of the rest of the world, 
not as concentrated educational perhaps, but outweighing in its total 

educational value all of the special kinds of objects put together. This world 
of ordinary objects is one of the worlds men's minds must penetrate in order 
to act intelligently. The barriers to this world of ordinary objects are of 
several kinds. One is characterized by the automobile. Cities and many rural 
areas have become so unsafe for pedestrians, especially for children, that 
streets and roads — the physical paths to the world — are off limits to many 
of the world's inhabitants. If streets could again be opened to pedestrians, the 
city itself could again become a network of educational objects, the natural 
school that it has been throughout history. A second barrier, however, would 
still lie between the customers' area of the various shops and the workrooms 
where most of the really educational objects and processes are shut away. In 
older cities these barriers do not exist. The tradesman works where he sells, 
open to public view. In the modern city, however, there is yet a third line of 
defense. Many machines and processes are not there at all but hidden outside 
of the city or in places where only the persons who already know can find 
them. Directories, which will locate this world for people who want to learn 
about it are indispensable, but even directories may not be easy to prepare 
and access, will be still more difficult to arrange. For these most interesting 
objects are also the most carefully guarded — the scientific, military, 
economic or political objects hidden in laboratories, banks and governmental 

Secrets seem natural and inevitable in the world to which we are 
accustomed, but the cost of keeping them is very great. Science, for 
example, used to be a network of people, working all over the world, and 
exchanging information freely. One of the original premises of science, 
which has never been repealed, was that progress depends precisely upon the 
open sharing of the results of scientific work. Now the members as well as 
the artifacts of the scientific community have been locked into national and 
corporate prisons, impoverishing even the citizens of these nations and the 
stockholders of these corporations. The special privileges they gain are more 
than offset by the barriers to the growth of knowledge. In a world controlled 
and owned by nations and corporations, only limited access to educational 
objects will ever be possible. Increased access to those objects, which can be 
shared, however, may increase men's insight enough to enable them to break 
through these ultimate educational barriers. 

Learning is but an adjunct to our self, 

And where we are our learning likewise is. 

William Shakespeare 


Although people could learn a lot in a world where things were freely 
accessible to them, it would still be helpful to have the assistance of other 
people. Each person might eventually learn to type, given a typewriter, but 
each might learn to type in a different way. Having a typist who could 
demonstrate the skill would help to avoid this, especially if more than one 
learner took advantage of the same model. If that happened, those two could 
compare notes and, thus, learn something from each other. If, finally, there 
were in addition to the skill model and the two learners, someone who had 
taught typing before, had compared the progress of various learners, and 
drawn some valid conclusions, this person might also be useful in reducing 
the time required to learn to type. 

The indispensable resource for learning to type is, of course, the typewriter 
itself. The skill model, while not indispensable, might, nevertheless, reduce 
the learning time by quite a bit and improve the final product as well. The 
fellow learner, the peer, is also important, especially in providing motivation 
to learn and the opportunity for practice. Less important than the others is 
the typing teacher. 

Schools reverse this kind of logic. They do not, it is true, try to teach 
typing without a typewriter, but they frequently try to teach foreign 
languages without the help of anyone who speak them, without anyone to 
speak to in them, and without anything to say in them that could not just as 
well be said in the native language of the learner. Geography is similarly 
taught without benefit of people who come from the places in question. 
Music is taught without instruments or musicians, science and mathematics 
by people who do not know them. Schools assume that the indispensable 
resource for learning is the teacher. Ideally this teacher should have the 
essential equipment for the practice of the skill and should also be able to 
demonstrate the skill, but these are secondary considerations. The need for 
learning peers is given lip service but little use is made of peers in the 
learning process. 

Schools are not just willfully perverse. Learning a skill, learning to 
practice it with someone else who is learning it, and learning how others 
have learned it are three different things, sometimes related but also 
frequently not. Schools try to find teachers who combine all three kinds of 
leaning but, understandably, they often fail. The combination is much 
scarcer than its elements. When they do succeed in finding the scarce 
combination, schools use it as if it were not scarce at all. The experienced 
teacher is required to act as skill model and as practice partner for individual 
students, to say nothing of the many duties, which are unrelated to learning 
or teaching. The scarcest skill of the teacher is usually the ability to diagnose 
learning difficulties, a skill acquired by observation of learning under 
various circumstances. In school, the use of this scarce skill must share time 
with all of the other functions built into the teacher's role. This is how 
schools succeed in taking plentiful leaning resources and making them 
scarce. They package them all together, and then stand the package on its 

What schools do, nevertheless, provides an excellent model for the 
organization of educational resources. The model has merely to be used in 
reverse. Educational resources must be administered independently of each 
other, and given priority in reverse order to that of the school. First, attention 
must be given to the availability of information in the form of records, the 
instruments, which produce and interpret these records and other objects in 
which information is stored. Second priority must be given to the availability 
of skill models, people who can demonstrate the skill to be acquired. Third 
priority must go to the availability of real peers, fellow learners with whom 
leaning can actually be shared. Fourth and last priority must go to the 
provision of educators who by virtue of experience can facilitate the use of 
the more essential learning resources. It might appear that educators are of 
first importance, if only to see that the other resources are properly valued 
and used. It is evident, however, that this is what educators when 
incorporated into schools do worst, not because they are educators, but 
because schools give them powers, which corrupt their judgment. 

Skill models are different from educational objects in two important 
respects. First, they must personally consent to their use as educational 
resources. Second, they frequently have enough additional flexibility and 
other secondary advantages to make it worth the trouble of gaining this 
consent. In this technical age they are not strictly necessary, since their skills 
can all be demonstrated on records of one kind or another, but they are 

convenient. The superior flexibility of human models was recently 
demonstrated in Patrick Suppe's experiment in computerized instruction at 
Stanford University. The computers were programmed to teach reading and 
numbers to beginning first graders. The computers worked well so long as 
one teacher stood behind each child to deal with his unexpected responses. 
Typical of these was the insertion of a pencil under the keys, which operated 
the computer. The computer could, of course, be programmed to deal with 
each one of these unanticipated reactions but at the end of the third year of 
the experiment the programmers were lagging further behind the children 
than at the beginning. Computers may be able to teach other computers but it 
appears that human learners may, for a time at least, continue to be better 
served by human models. 

Skill models are in plentiful supply. There are almost always more people 
in any vicinity who possess a particular skill than there are people who want 
to learn it. The major exceptions are when a new skill is invented or 
imported into a new territory. When this happens, skill models proliferate 
rapidly and are soon in balance with the demand for their services. Only 
schools and similar monopolistic institutions make skill models scarce. 
Schools try to forbid the use of models who have not joined the teachers' 
union. Some of the most famous musicians in the world, who fled from 
Germany at the time of the Nazi terror, were not allowed to teach music in 
the schools of the United States. Unions and professional associations also 
restrict the unauthorized use of skills, frequently creating serious shortages 
of vital services. Nurses, for example, are scarce in the United States, 
primarily because the training curriculum has been extended again and again 
by schools of nursing, placing the cost of training beyond the means of the 
girls for whom the profession offers opportunities for social mobility. 
Restrictions on the practice of a skill are usually justified in terms of 
professional standards and protection of the public. Sometimes these claims 
are true, but more often they are patently false. The best skill models are 
frequently those who have just learned a skill. Children learn to read from 
older siblings, sometimes with ridiculous ease. English schools were really 
economical for a time, when Joseph Lancaster introduced the systematic use 
of older students to teach younger ones. This system was better than schools 
usually are and was very much cheaper. It shares with other forms of 
schooling the fatal flaw of not allowing the learner to choose his model, his 
subject matter and his place and time of instruction. 

Skill models should be organized as an educational resource so as to give 
each learner the widest choice of models and each model the greatest 
latitude in accepting or rejecting learners. This requires first an absence of 
restrictions and second a directory of skill models of all kinds. Ideally, there 
would be no special restrictions of any kind. Model-pupil relationships an 
subject to risk and abuse as are any kind of human relationships but the 
general laws and customs which cover all such relationships provide the best 
available protection. Learning in and of itself creates no additional hazards. 
The advantage of permitting the learner to seek and find a model from whom 
he will learn is, in general, worth all the additional risk that such latitude 
entails. Not learning what needs to be learned is likely to involve the greatest 
risks of all. 

Developing directories of skill models is not intrinsically difficult. Truly 
convenient and comprehensive directories might be so valuable, however, as 
to warrant considerable investment. Responsibility for developing and 
administering such directories should probably be vested in a public utility. 
Skill models willing to offer evidence of their skills would be offered free 
registration. Those who chose not to do this would, nevertheless, retain the 
freedom to make such arrangements as they could, using their own means of 

The financing of skill training contracts can best be dealt with after the 
organization of other educational resources has been discussed. It may be 
that skills, which seem to be required for intelligent participation in the 
modern world should be taught at public expense. In this case the public 
utility, which maintained the directory of skill models, could also be charged 
with paying them. Public payments should not be made, however, except 
upon evidence that an essential skill had been learned to an acceptable 
standard. Private contracts could be left to the wishes of the contracting 

Having learned a skill, people need someone with whom to practice. But 
peers are important even before practice. Who would bother to learn a skill 
unless there were others with whom to share it, fellow explorers of the new 
ground opened by the skill? Many skills are learned primarily with peers, 
taking advantage of the skill models in the general environment. Often peers 
and skill models are hard to distinguish. In ordinary inter-personal relations 
there is no need, nor advantage, in distinguishing skill models from peers. 

On the contrary, learning occurs best when such distinctions are not made. 

There is, however, an important distinction, which can be ignored only if the 
individuals involved are willing to ignore it. Peers are, by definition, equals 
deriving mutual benefits from their relationship. They can play tennis 
together, go exploring together, study mathematics together, or build a camp 
together. If they are peers, they contribute more or less equally to each 
other's objectives. Helping a smaller brother or sister learn what he wants to 
learn is different. It may be equally enjoyable for a while, but the enjoyment 
palls more quickly. Peer relationships are freely chosen, freely kept. Skill 
modeling frequently requires some sort of compensation for the model, if the 
relationship is maintained as long as the learner would like. A method for 
compensating skill models is needed, therefore, which is not needed in 
relationships of peers. 

Finding peers is merely a matter of knowing where they are and being able 
to get there, write or call on the telephone. Neighborhoods free of 
automobile hazards are all that most children need for the purpose. As skills 
develop, however, the better ball players go farther a field to find worthy 
competitors, the botany bug outgrows his neighborhood pals, the serious 
ballet addicts find their ranks thinning out. 

Schools supplement neighborhoods, as things are now organized, but 
schools create as many barriers to peer groups as opportunities for them. In 
schools, peer groups form around the goals of teachers or around the 
interests of dope-pushers. Student-initiated groups have a hard time 
competing with either. But for teenagers the neighborhood no longer serves 
as an adequate base for contacts. If it did, the telephone and the automobile 
would be more dispensable. These instruments are often charged with 
breaking up the face-to-face community, but actually, along with Main 
Street and Peyton Place, they mainly expose its limitations. 

For adults, with their frequently highly specialized interests, even the 
largest cities cannot always provide true peers. The best illustration of this is 
the scientific community, which must be worldwide for the most fruitful 
peer encounters to occur. The scientific community also illustrates how peer 
matches can be fostered or frustrated. 

The logical structure of science provides a framework for identifying 
persons of similar interests. Its journals provide of communication. Its rules 
of logic and criteria of evidence provide the parameters for fruitful 
encounters. Its achievements unfailingly generate new problems, which 

beckon explorers with common interests. All these advantages of science, as 
a network of related interests, which provide an ideal basis for peer-group 
formation, have now been offset by institutional barriers. National and 
corporate interests now dictate who may speak or write to whom, in what 
terms, when, how and where. Only the model of a scientific community is 
left, available for other interest groups which have been less successful in 
forming fruitful peer groups than scientists used to be. 

The advantages of science in fostering communication among peers are no 
more natural than the forces, which have now disrupted them. The modern 
'logical' structure of science did not exist a century ago. Neither did its 
current journals, nor its present rules of logic or standards of evidence. The 
beginnings were already there but, two centuries ago, even those were only 
dim foreshadowing. 

Fortunately, other communities of interest do not have to retrace the steps 
of science. Her example, as well as her products, make it possible to shortcut 
these steps. Today any area of interest can be so described that a computer 
can match the persons who share it. Learners in search of peers need only 
identify themselves and their interests in order to find matches in the 
neighborhood, city, nation or world. The computer is not indispensable. In 
the neighborhood a bulletin board will do, in the city a newspaper, in the 
nation a national magazine, in the world an international journal. All of these 
media and others are and should be used to find peer matches, but computers 
can make the matching easier and more flexible. 

The operation of a peer-matching network would be simple. The user 
would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity he 
wanted to share. A computer would send him back the names and addresses 
of all who had inserted similar descriptions. People using the system would 
become known only to their potential peers. 

As in the case of skill models, a public utility might provide free service 
for the finding of peers. This would be justified not only in educational 
terms but also as buttressing the right of free assembly. The same right 
should also be extended to include prohibition of involuntary assembly, in 
the form of compulsory attendance at school. If freedom of the press and 
free assembly were taken seriously and public means provided to make them 
available to everyone, compulsory school attendance, military service and 
other common current compulsions would become unnecessary. 

As schools are replaced by networks of educational objects, skill models 
and peers, the demand for educators, rather than declining, will increase. 
These educators will perform different functions from those now performed 
in school and not all of them will be the same people. The need for people 
with real ability in administration, teaching and scholarship will increase, 
and their rewards in terms of educational achievement, professional freedom 
and income will also increase. Schoolmen whose skills are primarily in the 
hiring, supervision and firing of teachers, public relations with parents, 
curriculum making, textbook purchasing, maintenance of grounds and 
facilities and the supervision of inter- scholastic athletic competition may not 
find a market for their skills. Neither will all of the baby-sitting, lesson- 
planning and record-keeping teachers, unless they have skills, which can be 
turned to other uses, or unless they leave education for more honestly 
designated employment. 

At least three kinds of professional educators will be in strong demand: 
first, architects and administrators of the educational resource networks 
which have been briefly described; second, pedagogues who can design 
effective individual educational programmes, diagnose educational 
difficulties and prescribe effective remedies; and third, leaders in every 
branch of learning. 

Educational resource networks are simple in principle and will be effective 
only if they are kept simple in operation. The kind of simplicity required, 
however, is frequently the mark of genius. People who can multiply the 
services available to people and still stay out of their way are relatively rare. 
'You always find the other kind', in the words of an old refrain. 

The designers of the new networks will have to understand knowledge, 
people and the societies they live in. They will have to be dedicated to the 
idea of student-directed, individualized education. They will have to 
understand the barriers to the how of relevant information and how to reduce 
them without generating counter-actions, which would annul their efforts. 
They will above all have to be able to resist the eternal temptation of subtly 
directing the studies of their clients instead of opening ever new and 
possibly dangerous doors for their investigation. 

Teachers were greatly honored before there were schools, and will be 
again when they are freed to practice their profession without the constraints 

of forced attendance, mandatory curriculum and classroom walls. The core 
of an independent educational profession will be the pedagogue, a bad word 
now but one which will come into its own when students, parents and 
teachers are free to make responsible educational decisions. They will find, 
then, that they need advice and assistance in selecting learning programmes, 
choosing skill models, discovering peers, finding leadership in difficult 
endeavors. Unlike the network administrator, the independently practicing 
pedagogue will not have to suppress his opinions and values in favor of 
those of his client. He will be free to make value judgments because his 
clients will also be free. He will have no way of shaping their decisions 
except through the persuasiveness of his advice. And he had better be right 
as well as persuasive, for his clients will hold him responsible. This 
profession will not be for the faint-hearted, but the competent pedagogue 
will find in it the rewards of the old family doctor, the man who made the 
reputation, which modern medical specialists are still living on. There will, 
of course, be room for many pedagogic specialties, such as testing and 
educational psychiatry — which will be in less demand as the damage done 
by schools declines. Eventually the new pedagogic profession may succumb 
to the over-specialization, which now afflicts medicine, but by that time it 
will have made its contribution. 

The role of the educational leader is somewhat more elusive than that of 
the network administrator or the pedagogue. This is because leadership itself 
is hard to define. Welter Bagehot's description of a leader, as a man out in 
front when people decide to go in a certain direction, has not been improved 
upon.' It takes nothing away from the leader who positions himself for 
relevant reasons. 

Leadership, like education, is not confined to intellectual pursuits. It 
occurs wherever people do things together and especially when the going 
gets rough. This is when true leadership distinguishes itself, usually 
depending more on relevant prior learning than on the personal qualities so 
clear to the world of fiction. There is no valid test of leadership, even past 
experience. As Thomas Kuhn points out in The Structure of Scientific 
Revolutions, even in fields as rigorous as physical science, the most 
distinguished leaders are, periodically, bound to be proven basically wrong. 
There is, on the other hand, no substitute for leadership and leaders remain 
one of the vital educational resources which learners must be helped to find. 
Leaders will, of course, recommend themselves and this must be depended 
upon even in systematic attempts to match learners with leaders. 

In practice, there will always be a fuzzy line between skill models and 
leaders. Both are specific to the content of what is being learned or done; 
both are subject-matter specialists. Mountaineers cannot substitute for 
physicists or vice verse. The directories and administrative means that serve 
to locate skill models can also be used to locate leaders, who will identify 
themselves by the claims they make, the terms they insist upon, and the 
behavior they exhibit in actual encounter. Networks can be helpful in finding 
potential leadership but the true commodity will always be recognized only 
after the fact. 

There are other kinds of human beings who can be called educational 
resources only by stretching the concept. These people are, nevertheless, 
more important educationally than all of the resources described above. 

They are mothers, fathers, children, lovers and all of the other kinds of 
people who distinguish human beings from featherless bipeds. These people 
cannot be treated as educational resources because they are primarily 
something else. Familial, erotic, economic and political relationships cannot 
be organized as if their main purpose were educational. All of them, 
however, have enormously important educational implications, which cannot 
be neglected even though they cannot be manipulated for specific 
educational purposes. Unless people can enjoy, in the main, good human 
relationships, they cannot be educated nor educate themselves. The most 
fundamental educational resource, then, is a world in which most people can 
have good relationships with others. Perhaps paradoxically, universal 
education may itself be the principal means of realizing such a world. 

It should be emphasized again that distinguishing the various kinds of 
human educational resources makes sense only in economic and 
administrative terms. It would be an error for individuals to treat each other 
or to regard themselves as restricted to one or another of these categories. 

For economic reasons, however, the distinctions are vital. Whether 
educational resources are scarce or plentiful, expensive or cheap, depends 
entirely upon maintaining these distinctions. And this in turn determines 
whether education, and all other privilege, is to remain the prerogative of the 
few, or whether education and justice are to be made available for all. 

The way to establish an institution is to finance it. 

Justice William 0. Douglas 


Any attempt to say who now pays for education and who benefits from it 
is bound to be incomplete. This is partly because education is not well 
defined, while attempts to define it usually generate more controversy than 
agreement. The errors of incompleteness are now reduced, however, by the 
overwhelming preponderance of the school. School is the world's largest 
enterprise; larger than agriculture, industry or warfare. 

Of school's three rivals for the educational dollar, all but one are 
demonstrably small by comparison. The mass media are the most prominent, 
the easiest to define and probably the smallest. Large as the press and 
television are, along with movies, radio and all other forms of publishing, 
broadcasting and public entertainment, they represent less than half the 
money, time and clientele involved in schooling. On-the-job training, while 
harder to estimate, may be a little closer but still a losing rival to schools. 
There are a few more people at work throughout the world than in school, 
but not many more. Not enough more to offset the much smaller proportion 
of their work time devoted to learning. Perhaps the greatest rival of 
schooling is the personal time people spend in learning outside of 
institutional frame- works. This time and its imputed value may still exceed 
even current investment in schools, but it is very difficult to measure. One of 
the worst things that can be said about schools is that they have made such 
serious inroads upon this time and that they threaten to capture it all. This 
personal learning time is man’s principal hold on freedom, doubly in danger 
now, first, because schools threaten to absorb it and second, because schools 
use up the resources which could enrich it. A further capture of the 
resources, which still go into personal learning, could have only reactionary 
consequences. It would also be undesirable to try to capture the resources, 
which still go into training on the job. Work has been dehumanized too 
much already by separating it from learning. Better use of educational 
resources by the mass media is a desirable goal, but it may be that a better- 
educated public is the best way to achieve this. Attempts to achieve it by 
government control run the risk of further manipulation of the people on the 
other hand, and of an ineffective cultural snobbery on the other. Only the 
resources now reserved for the school are open for reallocation among 

educational objectives, at no loss to any interests except those that seek to 
perpetuate the present structure of privilege. 

There are still people who believe that we could finance the education we 
need by means of schooling, if only we were willing to give it priority, but 
this is to ignore the competitive character of schools. No sooner is universal 
high-school attendance approached than the competition shifts to colleges, at 
higher costs. There is already agitation for degrees above the Ph.D. on the 
grounds that the doctorate has become common and degraded. There can be 
no end to schooling in a world, which puts no limits on consumption and 
where degrees determine people's position at the trough. 

Schools are an almost perfectly regressive form of taxation, paid for by the 
poor to benefit the rich. Schools are supported, largely, by general taxes, 
which ultimately fall more upon the poor than their direct incidence 
suggests. Property taxes, for example, are paid by those who occupy 
dwellings rather than by those who own them, excise taxes by consumers 
rather than producers. Meanwhile, the benefits of even public expenditures 
for schooling are distributed in direct proportion to present economic 

The children of the poorest one-tenth of the United States population 
attend school for an average of less than five years. The schools they attend, 
at this grade level, spend no more than $500 per pupil per year. These 
children cost the public, in schooling, less than $2,500 each over a lifetime. 
The children of the richest one-tenth of the population finish college and a 
year of graduate school, which costs about $35,000. Assuming that one-third 
of this is private expenditure, the richest one-tenth still get ten times as much 
of public funds for education as the poorest one-tenth, 

Compared to most of the rest of the world, the schools of the United States 
are relatively fair. In Bolivia, for example, one-half of all public allocations 
for schools are spent on one per cent of the population. The ratio of 
educational expenditures on the upper and lower one-tenth of the population, 
respectively, are about three hundred to one. Most parts of the world are 
nearer to the Bolivian than to the United States ratio. 

Schools constitute a regressive tax because the privileged go to school 
longer and because costs increase with the level of schooling. Graduate 
schools, for example, provide by far the highest student subsidies not only in 

relative but also in absolute terms. Graduate students come largely from the 
upper income levels of the society. Nevertheless, students pay almost 
nothing at this level, in fact are frequently paid, while graduate-school 
support, even in private universities, comes largely from public funds. Costs 
in the sciences, for example, run up to several hundred thousand dollars per 
student per year. At the under-graduate level there is a higher proportion of 
private expenditure but, even here, public subsidies average several 
thousands of dollars per student per year, as compared with hundreds of 
dollars at the elementary level, where most of the poor children are. 

Schools make it impossible to equalize educational opportunity, even in 
terms of the allocation of public resources. Unless they abandon scholastic 
standards altogether, they can never keep poor children in school as long as 
rich ones and, unless they reverse the cost ratios which have always 
characterized schooling, they will always spend more at higher than at lower 
levels. Even compensating programmes specifically designed to help poor 
children cannot achieve their purpose within the structure of the school. Of 
three billion dollars earmarked by the federal government of the United 
States for supplementary services to poor children, less than a third was 
actually spent on eligible children; these children showed no measurable 
improvement, while the non-eligible children, with whom they were mixed 
and who also benefited from the money, did make a measurable gain." 

In a just world, or in a world trying to achieve justice, public expenditures 
on education should be inversely proportional to the wealth of the student. 
Private expenditures on education are made almost entirely on behalf of the 
better-off, so that merely equal expenditures on education would require that 
public funds for education go in a higher proportion to the poor. Even this 
would not equalize educational opportunity, since the parents and the homes 
of the better-off represent an investment in their education, which would 
also have to be offset. Finally, the poor suffer the handicap of the culture of 
silence, the inheritance of magic and myth designed to ensure their 
continued docility. It is this, rather than deficient genes, which handicaps the 
learning of their children; this plus the punishment of failure and disapproval 
which is their customary lot in schools. These disadvantages, not inherent in 
them and not of their own making, require an additional expenditure on the 
education of the poor to offset them. If all of the public funds allotted to 
education in every nation were spent exclusively upon the poor it would still 
take many generations to offset the handicaps, which generations of 
exploitation have imposed upon them. 

It should now be clear that even the first step in equalizing educational 
opportunity among social classes requires an allocation of educational 
resources outside the school system. The only ways of making sure that poor 
children get even an equal share of public funds for education are either to 
segregate them completely in schools of their own, or to give the money 
directly to them. The first of these alternatives has been tried and has 
conspicuously failed. The second provides the key to the proper allocation of 
educational resources. 

Putting command of educational resources in the hands of learners does 
not solve all problems, but it is an indispensable step toward a solution. Not 
only the problem of equalizing opportunity across class lines but all of the 
other problems discussed above become manageable with the aid of this 
principle. Schools would stand, adjust or fail according to the satisfaction of 
their clients. Other educational institutions would develop in accordance 
with their ability to satisfy client needs. Learners would choose between 
learning on the job and full-time learning, which skills they wanted to learn, 
at what age they wanted to use their educational resources, and how. This 
presupposes a system of lifetime educational accounts, administered in early 
childhood by parents, in which resource credit could be accumulated, and 
over which the learner, from a very early age at least, would have a veto 

In the world as seen by Adam Smith, this would solve all of the problems. 
In the real world, there is still an imperfect distribution of the supply of the 
real resources required for education and there is, furthermore, imperfect 
knowledge of what resources are needed and where they are to be found. 

This imperfect knowledge is not confined to learners. The would-be 
suppliers of educational resources also lack knowledge of where their 
potential clients are and of what they need. There is finally the age-old 
problem of imperfect character; people who want something for nothing and 
those who will sell anything to make a profit. If perfect competition and 
complete knowledge existed they would offset the problem of man's 
venality. Since they do not, it remains to compound the evil. 

A system of personal educational accounts and a system of public 
educational utilities, such as those suggested in the two previous chapters, 
would mutually supplement each other. They could be combined in a 
number of ways. One way would be to make the public utilities self- 

supporting, as the postal system is supposed to be, charging each user for the 
approximate cost of the service rendered him. Another way would be to 
make the services of the resource networks completely free. This would 
require dividing public funds for education between the support of the 
proposed utilities and provision for the proposed personal accounts. 

Besides these alternatives, various mixtures are possible: providing some 
services free while charging for others, charging some people and not others, 
according to age, income or other criteria. The possible combinations are too 
numerous to permit exhaustive discussion but a few are worth considering. 
The networks might, for example, provide a directory service free, locating 
skill models, objects, peers, etc., but doing nothing further to facilitate 
economic access. This would leave it to the learner to buy or borrow the 
indicated book, or pay the skill model, out of his personal account. 
Alternatively, libraries and stores of educational objects in common demand 
might be maintained for the free use of the public; reading and mathematics 
teachers might be publicly paid to teach elementary skills. 

These alternatives contemplate only the use of public funds derived from 
tax revenues, divided between educational resource networks and personal 
educational accounts. Additional financial arrangements are conceivable. An 
educational bank might be established in which educational services could 
be deposited and from which educational credit could be received. Skill 
models, for example, might elect not to be paid in cash but to accumulate 
credit for themselves and their children. Learners might borrow from the 
bank either credit to pay a skill model who is accumulating credit, or cash to 
pay one who wants cash, and the learner might later repay the bank either in 
cash or in service as a skill model for someone else. 

An educational bank could not compete in the market with banks less 
restricted in their activities. Government support for such a bank, or for any 
free service by an educational resource network, or even for the 
establishment of such networks, would constitute an educational subsidy. 
The use of tax funds for education is, of course, already a subsidy, but so 
long as these funds went entirely into educational accounts there would be 
no subsidy for one kind of education in preference to another. Today there 
is. Graduate schools are highly favored over elementary levels. Science is 
favored over other subjects. Nor are subsidies confined to the public sector. 
Monopolized industries are able to pass on the costs of educating both their 
employees and the public, because they can set their prices to absorb such 

costs. Government bureaus have even greater latitude of this kind. The 
military have almost unlimited funds for training and almost unlimited 
capacity to educate the public, not only by spending money but by 
manipulating information. The mass media are currently subsidized by the 
advertisers of products and services, while producing corporations in turn 
are able to charge the public for the education they impose upon them. Some 
educational subsidies are paid directly out of the public purse. Others are 
collected by private corporations under permissive public laws. All are 
expressions of public policy more or less openly admitted. 

Educational policy would be most open to public view if all public funds 
were channeled into personal educational accounts, and all educational 
institutions, including the proposed resource networks, had to be self- 
supporting. At present levels of expenditure, this would provide every man, 
woman and child in the United States with $250 per year to spend on 
education. It would also force all elementary and high schools, universities 
and graduate schools to charge tuition high enough to pay all costs. At first 
sight, many a scholastic career would appear to be nipped in the bud. Each 
newborn child, on the other hand, would have a lifetime fund to finance his 
personal education, valued at $17,000. Each twenty year old could count on 
$12,000, each forty year old on $7,000, each sixty year old on $2,000. This 
is the average amount of schooling the American public is buying now, 
through taxes, for each of its citizens. It is roughly equivalent to a college 
education. The fact that so few people get it merely underscores the 
inequality of the present distribution. Actually few of those who now receive 
more would be seriously deprived if public funds were divided equally. All 
but a few would be able to finance their education privately. Poor children, 
on the other hand, would have five times as much educational support as 
they now receive. On the average, these poor children would get the same 
amount they now get up to age fifteen. They would then, however, still have 
four times as much left. Many poor children become able to profit from 
formal training only at about this age, although this may be only because the 
present system of schooling is so poorly adapted to their needs. 

What about those who, today, spend at a much faster rate? Would the 
average middle-class child who now uses up his quota of public funds by 
about age twenty-one be retarded by having to keep within his annual quota? 
Under at least three circumstances he would not. First, his family might 
supplement his allowance. Current private investment in education is only 
one-fourth of public expenditure, one-fifth of the total. Second, he might not 

attend schools but get his education elsewhere at lower cost. Third, he might 
borrow against his lifetime allowance. Under favorable circumstances this 
would appear to be relatively safe. If the student's family was fairly well off 
but reluctant to invest their own money, they could probably, in one way or 
another, insure against the risk of failure. If, on the other hand, the family 
were poor but the student able and promising for his chosen career, 
insurance might be bought at public expense to cover his risk. 

What about people who didn't use their allowance? The tax-payers might 
be allowed to benefit. Allowances might be increased in subsequent years. 
Families might be permitted to pool their allowances. Adults would probably 
learn fairly quickly to use what they had coming, and this could work to the 
great benefit of education, the adults themselves, and their society. Adults 
acting on their own behalf would be shrewd buyers of education. Their 
demand would bring educational resources into the market, which younger 
people would also use, once the demonstration had been made. Many now 
passive middle-aged and older people would come alive and begin to rake a 
more informed interest in their own and in public affairs. 

How would educational allowances actually be spent? What would happen 
to schools? How would profiteering be controlled? Answers depend very 
much on development of the resource networks previously described. 

Capital investment in these networks would have to have a prior claim on 
public funds for education, even though this investment were to be repaid by 
the fees charged for service. If these networks were well designed and 
operated they would influence the investments of many learners, especially 
adults at first. Many of these adults would be parents, however, whose 
children would also soon begin to use the networks. 

Schools would, for a time, continue to be used by parents dependent on the 
custodial care they offered and by students far enough alone to be dependent 
upon them. Schools could not, however, continue to function at today's level 
since the public funds available to the age group they serve would be less 
than one-third of the public funds that schools receive now. A few schools 
might survive — old established private schools and a few public schools in 
rich suburbs whose pawns could afford to keep them up and could also 
afford not to worry too much about the economic future of their children. 
Most people would soon discover more efficient ways of learning and more 
pleasant ways of spending time than in school. 

Charlatans and profiteers might have a field day for a time. But, if the 
networks functioned properly, they would soon be checked, not by 
suppression primarily but by the competition of honest suppliers and skill 
models, aided by competent pedagogues advising parents and students. 
Controls of the type offered by better business bureaus would be sufficient, 
since they would be too inefficient to do much harm but available for use 
against a real mountebank. 

The money which is now so insufficient for schools would be more than 
enough to support an enormous network of educational objects and to 
partially support a number of skill models, pedagogues and educational 
leaders far in excess of the number of teachers employed today. Many would 
work only part time as skill models and educational leaders, practicing their 
skills and pursuing their explorations for other purposes as well. Pedagogues 
working full time could serve a clientele of a thousand persons, giving each 
on the average a couple of hours per year. 

Financial magic? Not at all. The cost of custodial care would in large part 
be transferred back from the public to the private purse. Most of it is now 
provided for people too old to need it — old enough to work and, in many 
cases, better off working. The additional education provided, at lower cost, 
would also produce a citizenry able to solve the pseudo-problem of how to 
employ the additional 'un-needed' hands and brains released from the tedium 
of school. 

Whereas it appeareth that however certain forms of government are better 
calculated than others to protect individuals in the free exercise of their 
natural right, and are the same time themselves better guided against 
degeneracy, yet experience hath shown, that even under the best form, those 
entrusted with power, have, in time, and by slow operations perverted it into 
tyranny, and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this 
would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable the minds of the people at large, 
and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts, which history 
exhibiteth, that, possessed thereby of the experiences of other ages and 
countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and 
prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes. 

Thomas Jefferson: A Bill for the more general diffusion of knowledge 


Effective alternatives to schools cannot occur without other widespread 
changes in society. But there is no point in waiting for other changes to bring 
about a change in education. Unless educational alternatives are planned and 
pursued there is no assurance they will occur no matter what else happens. If 
they do not, the other changes are likely to be superficial and short-lived. 
Educational change, on the other hand, will bring other fundamental social 
changes in its wake. 

True education is a basic social force. Present social structures could not 
survive an educated population, even if only a substantial minority were 
educated. Something more than schooling is obviously in question here; 
indeed, almost the opposite of schooling is meant. People are schooled to 
accept a society. They are educated to create or re-create one. 

Education has the meaning here which students of education and of human 
nature have always given it. None has defined it better than Paulo Freire, the 
Brazilian educator, who describes the process as becoming critically aware 
of one's reality in a manner, which leads to effective action upon it. An 
educated man understands his world well enough to deal with it effectively. 
Such men, if they existed in sufficient numbers, would not leave the 
absurdities of the present world unchanged. 

Some such men do exist: men who understand reality well enough to deal 
with it effectively. Today they exist in small numbers, most of them engaged 
in running the world for their own convenience, a few in trying to stop them. 
If, in any society, the proportion of persons so educated were 20 per cent 
instead of 1, or 30 instead of 3, such a society could no longer be run by a 
few for their own purposes but would have to be run for the general welfare. 
The laurels of leadership lose their appeal if spread over more than a few 
and an educated minority, above a certain size, would have to opt for justice 
and sanity. Whenever, as in pilgrim New England, ancient Athens or early 
Rome, a reasonable proportion of the population has been educated, in the 
sense of knowing what the local score was, their societies have been run not 
by the few for their own interests, but by the many in the common interest. 

Nation states as they exist today could not for long survive an educated 
population. Nations made up of educated citizens, or containing a substantial 
minority of such citizens, would tend to merge with other nations. This 

could, of course, begin to happen within the nominal framework of the 
nation state. Geographical boundaries would not have to change. If 
immigration and tariff restrictions change sufficiently, political frontiers 
become meaningless. 

Class distinctions would also tend to disappear in educated societies; as 
indeed they have tended to do in certain periods of history. This does not 
mean that individual differences of value-position or privilege would 
disappear. In a changing society new differences would tend to occur as 
rapidly as old ones were equalized. It would be difficult, however, to 
identify differences resulting from fairly constant change either with class, 
race, or any other socially identifying label. An educated society would 
become and remain highly pluralistic, with many loosely related, build 
hierarchies based on a large number of fairly independent value criteria. 
Some people might be rich, some powerful, others popular, still others loved 
or respected or strong, but not very many could be all of these for very long. 

An educated population would make not only their nations but also their 
specialized institutions responsive to the needs and desires of clients and 
workers in addition to those of managers. An educated minority of any size 
would never put up with current health and education services, 
environmental pollution, political policy control by military-industrial 
cliques or advertiser control of mass media, to say nothing of traffic jams, 
housing shortages and the host of other absurdities which afflict modern 

No educational magic is implied. Not even educated people could solve 
these problems in their present context. What they could and would do is 
recognize an impossible context and change it. They would realize, for 
example, that competitive consumption is an impossible way of life for more 
than short periods or small minorities. Once these were grasped, much of our 
present production and employment would be seen as not only unnecessary 
but actually harmful. War materials are an obvious case, but schooling, 
pretentious short-lived consumer durables, advertising, corporate and 
governmental junketing and a host of other products and activities are 
scarcely less so. 

What makes it so difficult to do anything about these matters is that the 
present way of life of so many privileged people depends upon keeping 
things as they are. Education alone cannot solve this problem. It can help 

people to see what shifting sand their present security rests upon. It can help 
them visualize feasible alternatives, although something more may be 
required to realize them. This is merely to say that education alone cannot 
bring about revolutionary social change. 

Theories of political revolution provide some basis for a more general 
theory of institutional revolution, but important revisions and additions are 
needed. Political institutions are uniquely based upon power and the use of 
violence. In political matters, ideology and rationality tend to be subservient 
to the use of power and violence. In the case of other institutions — even 
including the religious — ideology and rationality are relatively more 
important. This may not always be apparent in the declining days of 
decedent institutions bolstered by naked power. It is nevertheless true that 
people choose their markets, their schools, their hospitals and transport, 
somewhat less blindly, somewhat more in consideration of costs and benefits 
— including sentimental attachments — than they do in choosing and 
defending their citizenship. Changes in non-political institutions are, at least 
on the surface, subject to rational discussion. Major changes in non-political 
institutions are at times carried through without violence, although this 
might be less the case if legitimate violence were not a monopoly of political 
institutions. It is conceivable, at any rate, that revolutionary change in non- 
political institutions could take place without violence, could be semi- 
rational, could be affected by analysis, research, debate, legislation, resource 
allocation, market behavior and peaceful political participation. 

Socialization in the Scandinavian countries and Britain and the formation of 
the European Common Market provide examples of changes that have taken 
place in relative peace, though certainly not without pressure and the threat 
of violence. 

Scientific and religious revolutions are worth looking at for ideas. In 
mature sciences, one major theory controls research and teaching in the field 
until gradually its deficiencies become more and more widely recognized, it 
fails to satisfy an increasing set of requirements made upon it, and is finally 
discarded in favor of a more successful rival. The necessary conditions for 
this kind of peaceful change are easy to identify. There is a common 
language which members of a branch of science uses and jointly understand. 
There is regular communication among scientists. There is an ultimate court 
of appeal, namely empirical evidence produced under controlled and 
published conditions. Finally, there are agreed upon canons of reason and 
logic. These conditions are hard to match outside the mature sciences but 

they provide useful standards, which have actually been approximated in the 
examples of peaceful institutional change cited above. Thomas Kuhn's 
recent book and the controversy it has engendered show that even scientific 
revolutions are vastly over-simplified in the above account. They do proceed 
without major violence, however, and with an apparent rationality, at least 
after the fact. 

Religious revolutions have not commonly been peaceful but some have 
been, and these illustrate an important principle. They show that something 
comparable to loss of faith in an old version of truth, like that which occurs 
in a scientific community, also occurs among the rank and file of a 
population. New religious faiths have swept over large areas at a rapid rate, 
and the conditions under which this has happened have something in 
common, both with each other and with the conditions under which 
scientific revolutions have occurred. Sweeping religious movements have 
always occurred among miserable people, under deteriorating social 
conditions leading to disillusionment and despair. The other condition for 
their occurrence has been a powerful and attractive new revelation of truth. 
Sometimes, but not always, charismatic leaders and disciples have 
proclaimed the new truth. As in the case of science, common language, 
communication and commonly accepted standards of reason and logic are 
necessary conditions for a religious revolution. The logical standards are not, 
of course, the same as those of science and the ultimate test of truth is very 
different. Evidence for the emotions, not evidence for the senses, is the 
touchstone of religious truth. Deeply felt needs must be satisfied. 
Nevertheless, the parallels between scientific and religious conversion are 
much more impressive than the differences. Religious revolutions, too, may 
hold lessons for a theory of institutional revolution. 

The annals of violence itself may support the idea that violence need not 
accompany change. Military history is full of instances of battles, which 
were not fought because one side had a demonstrable preponderance of 
power. Usually this was the side that began with the most power, but not 
always. A peaceful revolution is not one in which the holders of power give 
up meekly. This is truly romantic nonsense. A peaceful revolution is one in 
which the nominal holders of power discover that they have lost their power 
before they begin to fight. 

There is no assurance that institutional revolution can be peaceful. There is 
only a hope and not necessarily a very good one. The peaceful character of 

revolution is not, however, the only consideration. It is important partly 
because of its critical relation to an even more important criterion. This is 
that revolution be effective, that it achieve its purposes. The history of 
political revolution is a history of betrayal, both of the idealists who helped 
create the conditions for it, but even more of the common people on whose 
behalf it was made and who themselves made the major sacrifices. 
Revolution will result in only those positive changes, which are in the course 
of being made when the revolution occurs. If it consists in nothing but these 
changes, so much the better. 

He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils. - Roger Bacon 

Whether a peaceful revolution is possible only time will tell; it may be in 
some countries and not in others. The necessary conditions for it, however, 
are easy to state. It cannot occur unless most people are persuaded that it 
should, nor unless the verdict of this majority is accepted. However, it is 
unlikely first, that a majority could be persuaded of the need for 
revolutionary change while control of the mass media and the powers of the 
state remained committed to the status quo, and second, that a minority 
holding these powers would yield them peacefully even if convinced of its 
minority status. 

An educated minority of substantial size could, under certain conditions, 
create a majority in favor of revolutionary change. This could happen only if 
there were deep disillusionment with existing institutions and a compelling 
formulation of alternatives. The following attempt to show how these 
conditions might be brought about in the area of education is obviously no 
blueprint for revolution. It is merely a sketch of a possible series of 
preliminary steps. 

The first step is already implied. Large numbers of people would have to 
become disillusioned with schools. This is currently happening, but the 
numbers are not nearly large enough, nor is the disillusion deep enough. The 
basic contradictions of the school system must become publicly apparent: 
that schools are too expensive to serve as a universal system of education, 
that schools perpetuate inequality, that schools inoculate the vast majority 
against education by forcing unwanted learning upon them, that a schooled 
society is blinded to its own errors. The contradictions are there. To get them 

generally recognized is difficult, since the people most looked up to are the 
most schooled. It is always difficult to recognize what has been done to you, 
when the recognition is itself degrading. Unless this recognition occurs, 
however, nothing else can. 

The programme described below assumes that deep and widespread 
disillusionment with schools will occur. If it does, the following proposals 
for legal, fiscal, institutional and educational programmes will become 
progressively more feasible and these, if carried out, will themselves help to 
speed the loss of faith in schools. People hang on to what they recognize as 
very faulty institutions until they see what else they can do. While they hang 
on, it is difficult for them not to rationalize their actions by hoping that 
things are not as bad as they seem. 

On the legal front, a two-part strategy is needed: the first consisting of 
action under existing laws, the second of proposals for new legislation. 

Some kinds of legal action already have a long history, especially the 
objections to compulsory schooling traditionally associated with dissident 
religious sects. More recently, such defense has been based upon non- 
religious grounds, including the claim that children are not receiving the 
education, which schools purport to give. Suits claiming an equal share of 
public resources earmarked for education have also been filed, based on the 
promise of equal protection of the laws contained in the fourteenth 
amendment. Further legal action possible under existing law may be 
suggested by the following legislative programme. 

We need legislation which would parallel the first amendment to the 
Constitution of the United States, prohibiting any law with respect to an 
'establishment of religion'. Institutional monopoly of education, especially 
by the state, has all of the evils of a state church, compounded by the fact 
that a secular school system can be made to seem neutral with respect to 
basic values. Since such a claim is obvious nonsense, the defense of a 
national school system falls back upon the overriding needs and prerogatives 
of the state. But this involves a contradiction with democratic theory, which 
holds the state to be the instrument and not the molder of its citizens. The 
school, in modern times, has become more powerful than the church of the 
middle ages. The career and, therefore, the life of the individual depend 
upon his success in school. The law makes him a criminal if he does not 
attend it. He is subject to its influence far more than medieval man was ever 
subject to the church. The case for a prohibition of educational monopoly is 

stronger than the case against a state church, which in times of crisis could 
oppose the state and claim heavenly authority for its position. The claim for 
academic freedom is the nearest schools can come to a similar role and we 
have recently seen how relatively feeble it is. Churches, on the wane, did 
infinitely better against the Nazis and Fascists than universities, in the 
fullness of their power. The school is completely an instrument of the state 
and creates subservience to it. 

Along with prohibition of an established school we need to extend our 
anti-discrimination laws to include schooling. We must forbid favoritism 
based on schooling as well as on race or religion, and for the same reasons. 
Where and how one has been schooled is as irrelevant to one's capacity to do 
a job as race or religion. All affect aspects of job performance which are of 
interest to the employer but which the law has decided, in the cases of race 
and religion, are not his legitimate concern. Neither is the school the job 
applicant went to, nor whether he went to school at all, if he can demonstrate 
the ability to do the job. We are so used to schools that this statement 
appears strange, yet the logic is simple. We now reserve the best-paid jobs 
for those whose training has cost the most. If schooling were privately 
financed this might make limited ethical sense, but its economics would still 
be ridiculous. The public has, indeed, been schooled to believe that a more 
expensive item must be better, but economists explain this on the 
assumption of price competition among suppliers. Schools have precisely 
the opposite kind of competition. Even Harvard would be suspect if it were 

We would have to distribute educational resources in an inverse ratio to 
present privilege in order to equalize educational opportunity. The argument 
against such a policy is that it would spend the most money on those with 
the least aptitude and would produce the least total education. This argument 
can be challenged, since aptitude judgments are based on success in a school 
system, which discriminates against the poor. But in the end such arguments 
will not decide a political issue. Most people believe that public resources 
are equally shared and if not that they ought to be. A law requiring equal 
sharing of public educational resources is, thus, a third item in a legislative 
programme. A system of individual educational accounts would be the only 
feasible way co enforce such a law. 

These three laws would effectively disestablish the school system as an 
educational monopoly. They would not prevent the development of a new 

one. By creating an educational market they would open the way to already 
powerful economic institutions, which might easily take advantage of their 
power to establish a new educational monopoly. 

Effective extension of anti-monopoly laws to the field of education would, 
therefore, be a necessary fourth legal step. Since such laws are now 
relatively ineffective in many other fields, this step would be far from 
routine. The weakness of and monopoly legislation is no accident; its 
enforcement would threaten the present system. This illustrates the more 
general principle that revolutions are not made by passing laws. Litigation 
and legislation can play only a part in a revolutionary strategy, and even that 
only if properly supported by economic, institutional and educational 

If the best way to establish an institution is to finance it, then one part of a 
strategy to replace schools is obvious. The obvious is not, however, always 
easy. We are, for one thing, talking about a great deal of money. The 
combined public-school budgets of the world total almost as much as is 
spent on armaments and soldiers. If student time were given its market value 
it would come to much more. This much money will not be liberated from 
its present channels unless very attractive alternatives can be found. 
Fortunately, not only educationally but politically attractive alternatives 

Public funds for education might be redirected to students, teachers, 
taxpayers or businessmen. 

Educational accounts would channel funds, which now go directly to 
schools through the hands of students. Students might still spend them on 
schools, either because the law gave them no option or because the schools 
succeeded in hoodwinking them or because the schools, under the impact of 
necessity, succeeded in delivering the goods. In all probability, schools 
would get a steadily declining share of the educational dollar if it went 
directly to students. 

Students would probably elect to spend some of their dollars directly on 
teachers, bypassing the schools, but there are also other ways in which 
teachers could profit at the expense of schools. Any significant weakening in 
the regulatory power of school would tend to have this effect; their power to 
compel attendance, for example, or to certify compliance with curriculum 

requirements. If students were to receive credit by examination without 
attending classes, teachers would be in increased demand as tutors. For them 
to increase their earnings would, of course, require a transfer of the savings 
resulting from reduced school attendance to a tutorial account. Most school 
laws would not have to be changed to make this possible. 

One way of transferring funds from schools to taxpayers is merely to 
reduce the resources earmarked for education. Another way, however, is to 
shift educational emphasis from children to adults. Since there are more 
taxpayers than parents, education distributed over the adult population 
would tend to match educational benefits with tax liability. The taxpayer, of 
course, would get back a dollar earmarked for education in place of one 
which had no string attached, but this might have good educational by- 
products. The taxpayer would insist upon maximum control of his dollar and 
would spend it on education valued by him rather than dictated by another. 

There are several ways to shift the educational dollar from schools to 
businessmen. Educational accounts are one. Performance contracts are 
another. Such contracts have recently been written by a number of schools 
with entrepreneurs who guarantee to teach a testable skill and who are not 
paid unless they do. Still another way to benefit business is to shift the 
burden of teaching from people to reproducible objects, be these books or 

There is an understandable reluctance on the part of educational liberals to 
make common cause with taxpayers and businessmen. Some academicians 
claim, for example, that mass media, especially television, already have 
more educational influence than schools and that weakening the schools 
would merely strengthen the hold of business interests on the minds of men, 
women and children. Galbraith even argues that the academic community is 
one of our main hopes of escaping the worst implications of the new 
industrial state. The evidence does not support him. There is no major issue- 
-war, pollution, and exploitation, racism — on which the academic 
community, as such, has a discernible stand. There are intelligent 
courageous, in schools and universities, as there are elsewhere, but they 
receive no effective support from their institutions. In the exceptional case 
when an institution has shielded an unpopular dissident, it has also muffled 
his voice. The worst causes, on the other hand, have had no difficulty in 
recruiting academics to their support while institutions of learning have 

entered into contracts with all kinds of other institutions for all kinds of 

But this does not meet the argument that jumping out of the school pan 
might land us in the television fire. If one believes in people and in freedom, 
this would still be a step forward. No one is compelled to watch television 
and everyone knows who is talking and why. People learn if they are given a 
chance, although not always what we want them to learn. God had to gamble 
on people and has frequently lost. Without this gamble, however, there 
would be no humanity. 

If educational liberals are unwilling to cooperate with tax-payers and 
businessmen, they must submit to an ever-waxing educational bureaucracy 
whose efficiency is steadily declining. If, on the other hand, real education 
were to result from this proposed unholy alliance, this would in itself reduce 
the danger of economic domination. Responsibility is best divided between 
private and public interests if policy is made by those who do not been 
written by a number of schools with entrepreneurs who do. Taxpayers, 
businessmen and educational liberals can be satisfactory allies if none are 
permitted to write the rules under which all will operate. 

It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that a competitive market in 
educational resources would necessarily result in good education. If 
everyone were already educated it might, but this is to assume the end we 
are seeking. Starting from where we are, certain educational institutions 
would have to be subsidized. 

One of the most important tasks would be to induce parents and employers 
to reassume their proper educational responsibilities. Every thinking person 
knows that real education occurs primarily at home and at work, but a 
number of facts have conspired to rob this truth of its former general 
acceptance. The modern organization of society in offering free schooling 
rewards both parents and employers, in the short run, for reducing their 
normal educational roles. Schools benefit politically potent parents, while 
business gains from any reduction in production costs. Similarly, the 
competitive consumption in which modern households engage induces them 
to save on costs for which there is nothing to display. Except perhaps in 
certain kinds of academic households, bright children are harder to show off 
than shiny automobiles. 

This kind of dominantly economic competition among producers and 
households is itself the product of a particular kind of legal structure. Until 
this is changed, some kind of special inducement, some kind of subsidy, will 
be needed to put educational processes back where they occur most 
rationally and economically, in the home and on the job. 

Another place where a great deal of effective education used to occur was 
in the practice of the arts. Before modern technology took over, all 
production involved the practice of art. What we now call the fine arts were 
integrated with the practice of other crafts, and people learned not only by 
working with more experienced masters but also from associates practicing 
related arts. In the early stages of industrialization, now rapidly passing, this 
kind of learning was disrupted. It could now be reestablished, since the 
demand for industrial labor is rapidly declining, but only if people who 
learn, teach and practice the various arts are given a dependable claim on the 
goods and services produced by modern technology. Unrestricted 
competition between men and machines is not a natural phenomenon, but 
one, which has been deliberately engineered in modern societies. Most 
countries of the world are frustrated in their efforts to bring this competition 
about. Modern countries may find it no less difficult to undo, but they must 
undo it if the arts are to reclaim an educational role which fan in no other 
way be performed. There is no comparable way of teaching everyone the 
essential skills of hand and foot, ear and eye, mind and tongue. 

In addition to the revival of traditional educational institutions, the modern 
world requires new ones, both to make available to learners the objects they 
require and also to make available the human assistance they need. Some of 
these institutions have been described as networks, or directories of 
educational objects, skill models, learning peers or professional educators. A 
public utility designed to match educational resources with educational 
needs could be self-supporting, once established. It might even be 
established with minimum public investment, but some experimental 
operation and testing would probably be required for it to reach its full 

Schools cannot be disestablished and education made freely available to all 
while the rest of the world remains unchanged. Competition among nations, 
classes and individuals will have to be replaced by cooperation. This means 
placing limits upon what any individual or group can consume, produce or 
do to others; limits which are being widely transgressed today by many 

individuals and groups. Acceptance of such limits implies an increased self- 
insight into what the real interests and possibilities of groups and individuals 
are. More than that, it implies a sacrifice of short-term interests for those, 
which are more enduring. This is not the kind of behavior for which the 
human race is noted. It remains quite probable, therefore, that it will not be 
learned except under the impact of catastrophe — if then. There is no need, 
however, to plan for catastrophe. There is every need to plan for its 

The final and critical component of a strategy for peaceful educational 
revolution is education itself. People have been schooled to regard an 
unschooled world as fantasy. Alternatives, which lack the familiar 
characteristics of schools, have an unreal aspect to a schooled mind. From 
what kind of fulcrum, with what kind of lever, can the required change in 
perspective be achieved? One answer is the school system itself, and efforts 
to change it. Today's disillusioned students, teachers, taxpayers and 
administrators include those who have tried and failed to change the system. 
The architects of educational revolution will be recruited from these ranks. 

Paulo Freire provides the educational means by which the revolutionary 
rank and file can be assembled. Poor people, black and white, peasant and 
urban proletariat, can learn to see what schools so obviously do to their 
children. Taxpayers can learn to interpret the meaning of trends in the costs 
of schooling. Even the privileged, oppressed by the stink of pollution and 
their growing fear of the poor, may come to wonder why they did not learn 
about these things in school. If they do not, their children are likely to tell 
them. These children of the privileged may turn out to be the teachers of the 
educational revolution. Not all of them, for many seek inconsistent goals. 
Oppressed by the hypocrisy around them, they seek the truth. But they also 
seek the warm social womb, which a technological world denies them. Some 
will find one, some the other, perhaps most neither. Since the total number 
of dissatisfied students can only increase, enough may eventually find the 

Today's educational tasks do not, in the main, require genius but they may 
require heroes. Some room for talent, if not genius, remains. To bring the 
truths of modern science, economics, politics and psychology to the masses 
without simplistic distortion will take some doing. Nevertheless, the sincere 
desire to do this remains a scarcer commodity than the ability. There are 
good reasons why desire, great enough to lead to action, should not be in 

plentiful supply. Those who seriously undertake to bring truth to those who 
because of their large numbers are most capable of bringing fundamental 
change — such people run considerable risk. The Gandhi's and Martin Luther 
King's do not die in bed. Che Guevara took weapons into the jungle with the 
intent to arm followers who could protect themselves and him. He was, 
beyond doubt, a hero and a martyr. Those who go armed only with the truth 
will be still more dangerous and also more vulnerable. No one, while he 
himself remains safe, can in conscience call for heroes. But the heroes have 
always appeared and — when the time is ripe — will again. 

One makes the revolution because it is the best way to live. - Danny the Red 


Most of us are not cut out to be heroes, but heroes will be of no avail 
unless we support them. What we can all do, and must do if there is ever to 
be a just world, is to begin to live as we would have to live in such a world. 

If this sounds as if it has been said before — it has. Every great religious 
leader has said it in one form or another. This makes it neither untrue nor 
irrelevant but is, on the other hand, the best evidence of both its relevance 
and truth. If it promises no new magic, guarantees no ultimate victory, but 
claims only to put humanity back on the main path out of the past, this also 
is evidence of its truth and relevance. 

Power and security, whether based on magic, religion or science, have 
always been false beacons leading to the repeated shattering of human 
hopes. They are false because the attainment of either ultimate power or 
security would be the final end of everything worthwhile in human life. 
People have repeatedly pursued these goals — the prophets of Israel called it 
idolatry — but people have also, again and again, recognized their idols and 
turned away from them. 

Our modern idols are science and technology and their temples are the 
institutions, which propagate their worship and profit from the proceeds. The 
promise of this modern cult — every man a king, with his private palace and 
his royal chariot — has captured the fancy of most of mankind. Suppose, 
even, that it were realized. What would there be to do? Only an endless 
exchange of royal visits, comparing the quantity and quality of royal johns, 
and an endless drag race of royal chariots, starting from countless 
crossroads. Eliminate the crossroads, with over and under-passes, and the 

whole point of the game would be lost. It would be like checkers with the 
red and the black playing on separate boards. 

But this dream of universal royalty is a pipe dream — only a few can win. 
Does that make the game worth playing? Not for those who lose. And for 
those who win? Already they are establishing private arsenals in their 
suburban redoubts and servicing their Cadillac's with bottled air while they 
drive through valleys of smog which grow longer and wider and deeper by 
the day. 

So what can people do? They can begin to live as they would have to live 
in a sane, just world. They can begin again to guard their health, avoiding 
poisonous air, water and food and the over-eating and under-exercise which 
more than defeat the miracles of modern medicine. There are other millions, 
of course, who under-eat and over-exercise because they are forced to work 
so hard in order to eat at all. What can they do? They can do different things 
depending on whether they have the cooperation of the affluent or not. In 
either case it comes to a matter of sharing — but sharing can be mutual or 

People can either increase or decrease their consumption and production, 
depending on whether they are now doing more or less than their share of 
the world's work and using more or less than their share of the world's 
goods. They can share their possessions or their needs. They can conserve, 
among other things, the natural environment they live in. 

Lowering consumption, sharing and conserving are three actions most of 
us can take and yet, jointly, they constitute a powerful revolutionary 
programme. Consider the consequences if this programme were consistently 
practiced in Europe and North America only by those who believe in its 

There would be an immediate sharp drop in demand, especially for the 
more elaborate goods and services. Ever since the Second World War, 
production in the North Atlantic community has been directed more and 
more to the sale of luxury goods, including food, clothing, shelter and 
transport for those already fed, clothed, sheltered and transported much 
better than most. No small part of the problem of the American economy 
today is the failure of young people from the upper middle class to establish 
themselves in the style their parents would gladly support. If only those who 

share the basic values and beliefs of these young people would follow their 
example, the market for automobiles, housing and appliances would 
collapse. The resulting unemployment would involuntarily curtail the 
consumption of other people, who would then come to see on what a false 
foundation their pseudo-prosperity had been built. For these people, sharing 
and conservation would at first be forced consequences of involuntary 
unemployment but once — or once more — experienced they would begin to 
recommend themselves on their own merits. 

Sharing and conservation, applied especially to goods, which are 
supposedly durable, would vastly multiply the economic effect of a mere 
curtailment of excess consumption. Conserved and shared, there is enough 
clothing, shelter and transport in the North Atlantic community to last for a 
decade. Much of it would need repair and improvement, but this could be 
supplied without generating much demand even for new raw materials. 

Exchange of services, rather than their purchase, whether voluntary or 
forced, would further deflate the market for goods, services, raw materials 
and land. The gross national product of the United States could be cut in half 
without any reduction of goods and services, which actually benefit anyone. 
What would happen to the foreign commitments of the United States under 
these circumstances is another matter, but most of the people of the world 
would be better off if these commitments were curtailed. What now looks 
like a scarcity of real resources in much of the world would turn out to be an 
ample supply, with only the problem of rational use and distribution 
remaining to be solved, once faced directly, stripped of its deliberately 
obscuring facade, this problem too might be rationally attacked. 

This last statement makes more sense if we remember the political 
psychology of the great depression. During the 1930's, masses of people 
became aware of the contradictions involved in some people owning and 
controlling what they could not use and other people needed. Only the 
Fascist movements saved Europe from the consequences of this insight and 
only the war saved America. Would Fascism occur again if conspicuous 
consumption broke down for a second time? The fear and even the covert 
threat of this prospect keeps many otherwise constructive people 
immobilized. But only those who do not learn from history are fated to 
repeat it. Learning does not mean that because one opportunity is missed all 
others must be foregone. 

This is not intended to minimize the dangers, which a breakdown of the 
present system, absurd as it has become, would necessarily entail. These 
dangers are great and any way of minimizing them should certainly be 
grasped. They cannot be avoided, however, by pretending that they result 
merely from calling attention to the need for basic change or by pretending 
that the only change needed is to improve the operation of our current 
institutions. These institutions are basically unsound. They are designed not 
to meet people's needs but to keep people under control. It would have been 
safer to change them in the 1930s before we had the atom bomb. It is safer to 
change them now than to wait until still more esoteric weapons are invented. 
The risks of change are great but the risks of delay are greater. 

What, it may be asked, is to prevent the defenders of the status quo from 
again using totalitarian nationalist parties, international provocation and war 
as the means of preserving or reestablishing the present order? Certainly 
nothing will prevent them from trying. Only enough people deeply 
committed to a world of sanity and justice, cooperating wisely in their 
efforts to achieve such a world, would have any chance against those who 
will assuredly use all means to perpetuate their power and their privilege. 

But the power of elites declines rapidly when they are forced to rely on 
violence. They lose the support of even those of their fellows who enjoy 
their privilege but are unwilling to purchase it once they become aware of its 
true price. There is no doubt that those who fight for justice, even passively, 
will pay a price in heightened suffering if privilege is challenged. But the 
history of Europe during the last Great War provides many examples of how 
people can protect each other even in the face of overwhelming power 
ruthlessly applied. 

No one can know in advance how, in his own case, the battle will be 
joined. In some places, mere withdrawal from excessive consumption and 
peaceful sharing and conservation in cooperation with likeminded people 
will produce a majority capable of taking power by legal political means. In 
other places, civil disobedience as practiced by Gandhi and Nehru in India 
and by Martin Luther King and his followers in the United States may be 
necessary. In still other places, the guerilla tactics, which characterized the 
resistance in Nazi-dominated Europe from 1940 to 1945, may be forced 
upon people who refuse to continue to support injustice. Strategy and tactics 
at the three levels of democratic politics, passive resistance and guerilla 
warfare have some important things in common. They all depend upon 
cooperation rather than coercion. They depend upon local as opposed to 

central leadership. They depend upon a relatively equal sharing of burdens, 
responsibilities and rewards. But these are also characteristics of a sane just 
world. This is how a worthwhile, viable world will have to be run. People 
will, therefore, learn how to run it in the course of bringing it about. 

There is probably no other way of creating a society, which is of, by and 
for the people than through personal cooperation in which each person first 
orders his own life, in the light of shared principles, and then cooperates 
with others who share these principles. This is how all communities which 
have enjoyed a reasonable period of sanity and justice have been established 
— the early United States, Costs Rica and Uruguay, the ancient Greek and 
Roman republics, to name only those which I know something about. 

The Soviet state and the first French Republic, established on even nobler 
principles, but by the replacement of one central power with another, were 
never able to enjoy the fruits of the sacrifice entailed by their revolutions. 
Their struggles for power engendered, predominantly, new struggles for 
power. No sooner was power and responsibility concentrated than their 
downfall began, even in the case of communities originally founded on 
voluntary cooperation. 

What individuals must do, then, is not merely to curtail consumption, share 
and conserve. They must also learn how a just world is organized and 
governed. For while a great deal is known about past attempts, none of these 
attempts succeeded and, thus, evidently not enough was known by those 
who made them. They were all helped to fail by power seekers who did their 
successful best to corrupt them, but they were also helped to fail by the 
neglect, over-confidence, laziness, interest in other matters and, perhaps 
most of all, by the ignorance of their members. Brutus and Cassius 
understood the danger that Caesar represented, but they were too few. 
Jefferson understood and tried to share his understanding by universalizing 
education, but was betrayed, unwittingly perhaps, by Horace Mann and other 
inheritors of the public schools he pioneered. 

Perhaps the most important single thing that individuals can do is to take 
back their responsibility for the education of their children. Children learn 
very young how power is used by the strong in their relations with the weak 
and it is at least possible that this early learning shapes the individual's 
behavior in all of his subsequent relations with those who are stronger or 
weaker than he. 

There is so much that each of us can do to create a just world that the 
problem is not one of elaborating the ways but rather one of defining 
principles of selection. One thing that all ways have in common is some kind 
of sacrifice. The affluent must enjoy less than they could enjoy. The poor 
must demand more than they can safely demand. Everyone must learn ways 
of living and perceiving which are new to him, must risk his own security to 
help his neighbor in trouble. Affluent parents will have to deny an 
automobile for each teenage son and daughter. Poor parents will have to vent 
their frustrations elsewhere than upon their children. Both will have to allow 
their children to take risks from which they could protect them. 

A strategy of sacrifice must necessarily be selective. People can 
consistently sacrifice only those things for which the reward exceeds the 
sacrifice. Especially is this true since the strategy of sacrifice here described 
is as necessary after the revolution as during the heat of the battle. A just 
society cannot first be won and then enjoyed. It must be won anew every day 
and must, therefore, be enjoyed while it is being won. 

For sacrifice is not opposed to enjoyment but is its proper alter ego. 

Health, strength, love and respect, for example, can be enjoyed only while 
being earned — or for the briefest time thereafter. Even wealth and power are 
easily squandered. 

Each individual, then, must choose the kind and degree of sacrifice, which 
he can sustain, which for him is rewarding. Some must even be allowed to 
sacrifice their earned share in a sane just world. Most people, when they 
come to understand what is at stake, will not find it so difficult to choose a 
burden they can bear with pleasure — a discipline they can enjoy. What 
follows is not intended to restrict but to amplify these choices. 

One form of sacrifice which many people find rewarding is to trade 
quantity for quality. When, as frequently happens, this entails choosing the 
products of artisans over manufactured goods, the revolutionary 
consequences in an industrial society may be very great. There is no doubt 
that manufactured goods are cheaper, in most instances, so that more can be 
enjoyed for a given amount of money. But one original painting may give 
more satisfaction than a dozen prints and this can be true even though the 
painter is a member of the family. The principle holds for food, clothing, 
furniture, home construction and the assembly of jalopies from junkyard 

parts. Among the affluent, hobbies can generate demand for tools and new 
materials more expensive than the finished products. They do not have to, 
however, nor need art be left to hobbies. It can be a way of life for entire 
communities and could be used to advantage by and for the poor on a scale 
not yet imagined. 

The average American household, the top 80 per cent, contains not less 
than a thousand dollars' worth of unused durable goods which with a little 
work could be made more useful and attractive than goods the poor can 
afford to buy new at the prices they have to pay. This represents a potential 
capital of four thousand dollars for each poor American household, the 
transfer of which would benefit the affluent — they could use the space — the 
poor and the entrepreneurs who affect the transfer. These entrepreneurs 
would probably have to have a social rather than an economic motivation or 
else a very good facade. Too crass an approach might foul the wellsprings of 
'charity'. Nevertheless, the use of the term entrepreneur is not mere allegory. 
There would not only have to be middlemen to effect the transfer in 
question, but thousands of them might come from the ranks of neighborhood 
businessmen who cannot compete, in the sale of new goods, with nationally 
organized chains. 

In addition to its stock of unused goods, the average affluent American 
household has several thousand dollars' worth of unused space, above what 
is usually needed for its part-time members and occasional guests. If this 
excess space were fully utilized, the poor could be as well housed as the 
affluent. Complete utilization may be hard to imagine but there are many 
ways in which a substantial part of this space could be salvaged which 
would benefit everyone except real-estate speculators and snobs. Much of 
this idle space is owned by older people whose families are grown and gone 
and who cannot sell because the families who could buy do not meet the 
ethnic requirements of their neighbors. This problem could be overcome by 
enough acceptable people willing to buy houses as agents for those who 
suffer discrimination. Another large block of housing space is immobilized 
because people are afraid to rent rooms or apartments to tenants they feel 
might expose them to unpleasantness or even danger. This problem could 
also be overcome by a proper matching of homeowners and tenants. 

The two tactics suggested in the paragraph above are opposed in the sense 
that the first is based on deceit while the second is based upon restoring 
trust. This does not make them incompatible. If both were used successfully 

in the same neighborhood, each would result in the more complete use and, 
therefore, in the greater value of the neighborhood. Nor are the two tactics 
politically incompatible. Most people understand the distinction that a man's 
home is his castle, in which he should be able to choose his associates, while 
his neighbor's home is not. Nor are the two tactics morally incompatible. It 
is not that the end justifies the means but rather that the means chosen in 
each case appear to be the best available. If this is not actually the case the 
suggestions are invalid. 

This principle for the selection of means has a broad range of application. 
Even the law against murder recognizes the right to kill in self-defense or in 
the defense of others. There are few judicial systems, anymore, which would 
convict a Jean Valjean for stealing bread to avoid starvation. New laws, on 
the other hand, complicate current choices. Should people send their 
children to schools, which actually harm them even though the law requires 
that they do so? Should not people help those who are suffering political 
persecution even though the law has labeled them criminal? Neither the law 
nor the prevailing moral code provides a fully dependable criterion for 
action. In Nazi Germany, both law and current morality required people to 
collaborate in the murder of their Jewish neighbors. When such major issues 
as power and privilege are at stake both laws and morals are used as 

Nevertheless, neither private morality nor the slogan of political revolution 
— that the ends justify the means — will do. Choosing the best available 
means is not itself a foolproof formula. But there may often be no other way 
of choosing courses of action than to apply relevant economic, political, 
strategic, legal or moral criteria to the available choices. There may be no 
better guide to choosing and applying the criteria than that others agree they 
would be chosen and applied in the sane, just world which is the goal of 

A third principle is implicit in the above idea of the best available means, 
namely, the principle of cooperation. It is essential for people to choose and 
to act as individuals since only the true consent of individuals can validate 
the concept of justice. Nevertheless, purely individual action is ineffective 
and hard to sustain. Individuals must find ways of acting together, but they 
must personally choose these ways rather than be coerced by superior 
power. Leadership there can and probably must be, but the leaders rather 

than the followers should be drafted and should follow the policies of those 
they lead. 

Cooperation, which results in community, physical or functional, has 
especially great advantages. The future world must be based on community 
and, throughout most of the modern world, community has been lost. Even 
the traditional communities which remain may have to be done over since it 
is doubtful that people, given a real choice, will settle for the drudgery and 
hierarchy which characterizes most traditional communities. But there are 
also important strategic advantages in community effort. Communities can 
often legitimately take over much of the law making and police power. They 
can also serve as examples of sanity and justice to the outside world. 

In all of the above there is, obviously, nothing new. Even what may seem 
original is merely a new dress on an old-fashioned idea. We have become 
used to thinking of reality in terms of pentagons and atom bombs or, before 
that, in terms of armies, navies, banks and corporations. People's movements 
are thought to belong to the dark ages. Yet the oldest part of the United 
States is less than two hundred years old; the independent nations of South 
America have scarcely more than a century of history, while those of Africa 
and Asia, including Israel, were founded by popular movements only a few 
decades ago. In Vietcong, among others, seem to have a pretty good thing 
going right now. 

It is true that, up to now, military action has often been decisive, but the 
present rulers of China won their battle with weapons captured from the 
enemy, while in India there was no military showdown at all. 

Three things are new which lend substance to what used to be, and still is 
called, Utopian dreaming. First, drudgery is out of date. Second, modern 
institutions require increasingly universal cooperation. Third, universal 
education is now possible. It was only yesterday that the labor of four people 
was required to feed five. England had to fence people off the land in order 
to fill her factories. Today most people are in the way, both in the factory 
and in the field. Food and all other physical products can be produced more 
efficiently without them. People are indispensable, however, as passive 
clients and supporters of the production complex; taking what they are 
offered and doing what they are told. Without their cooperation, the current 
system for control of production and distribution would collapse. 
Increasingly people are becoming aware of these facts: realizing that their 

bodies are no longer required for mass production and that they are being 
asked instead to surrender their judgment and their will to its dictates. 

But to whose dictates? Production is a mindless thing. It knows no 
imperatives as to what shall be produced, where and when and for whom. 
The invisible hand is somebody's hand behind the curtain. More and more 
people are beginning to realize that they should be deciding these things, 
along with others, and that actually everyone has an equal right to decide 
them. When everyone understands this, universal education will be well on 
its way. There will still be a lot to learn. How to do one's share, how to claim 
one's share and no more, how to co-operate with others in things, which 
cannot be done alone. These lessons will never be completely learned but 
when everyone has a reasonable opportunity to learn and to apply them, 
things will begin to move. 

All this, if it were mere exhortation, would still be whistling in the dark. 
But things are happening. Charles Reich, in The Greening of America, says 
that a people's revolution has begun. Young people all over the world are 
tuning out the system and turning themselves on. Older people, including 
many who are concerned by the tactics of the young, still share their sense of 
the absurdity of the world they live in. The deprived, especially those who 
live in the prosperous countries, are opening their eyes and flexing their 
muscles. The great masses of the deprived, in Africa, Asia and South 
America, are still largely quiescent. When they begin to stir the thunder may 
at first roll softly but it will be heard. We can turn it on. 

Most of the children in the world are not in school. Most of those who are 
drop out as soon as possible. Most countries in the world can only afford to 
give their children the barest minimum of education, while the costs of 
schooling are everywhere rising faster than enrolments, and faster than 
national income. Schools are for most people what the author calls 
'institutional props for privilege', and yet at the same time they are the major 
instruments of social mobility: But at what cost in terms of true learning, 
true creativity, true democracy. And at what ultimate cost to the societies 
which perpetuate themselves in this way? 

This is the background to Everett Reimer's important, wide-ranging and 
intelligent book. The most urgent priority, he argues, is for a consideration 
of alternatives in education — alternative content, organization and finance. 
Above all, we urgently need alternative views of education itself, its nature 
and possible functions in the society of the future. 

'Illich and Reimer have asked some of the profoundest questions about 
education today.' Ian Lister The Times Higher Education Supplement 

'The case against universal compulsory schooling is a substantial one and 
Everett Reimer thumps it out in chapter after chapters. 

Christopher Price New Statesman